ELECTION DRAWS CLOSER, OBAMA UPS THE RHETORICAL ANTE…. For the past couple of weeks, most Democrats and many on the left have been outraged by Republicans’ willingness to block extended aid to the unemployed, while simultaneously pushing for massive tax cuts for the wealthy. Today, President Obama expressed that same indignation in his weekly address.
In general, these weekly messages from the president aren’t especially acerbic, but as the election season intensifies, and Obama’s patience for GOP tactics wears thin, I suspect we’ll see the president throwing more elbows the way he did today.
In this address, Obama noted struggling businesses and workers looking for relief. “For months,” the president said, “that’s what we’ve been trying to do. But too often, the Republican leadership in the United States Senate chooses to filibuster our recovery and obstruct our progress. And that has very real consequences.” After noting some of the steps Democrats want to take to help small businesses, Obama added, “[A]gain and again, a partisan minority in the Senate said ‘no,’ and used procedural tactics to block a simple, up-or-down vote.”
To hear the president explain it, the GOP doesn’t even get the basics right: “Some Republican leaders actually treat this unemployment insurance as if it’s a form of welfare. They say it discourages folks from looking for work. Well, I’ve met a lot of folks looking for work these past few years, and I can tell you, I haven’t met any Americans who would rather have an unemployment check than a meaningful job that lets you provide for your family. And we all have friends, neighbors, or family members who already knows how hard it is to land a job when five workers are competing for every opening.
“Now in the past, Presidents and Congresses of both parties have treated unemployment insurance for what it is — an emergency expenditure. That’s because an economic disaster can devastate families and communities just as surely as a flood or tornado.
“Suddenly, Republican leaders want to change that. They say we shouldn’t provide unemployment insurance because it costs money. So after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, including a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, they’ve finally decided to make their stand on the backs of the unemployed. They’ve got no problem spending money on tax breaks for folks at the top who don’t need them and didn’t even ask for them; but they object to helping folks laid off in this recession who really do need help.”
Obama went on to explain the stimulative nature of extended unemployment benefits — a detail the GOP usually forgets — and urged lawmakers not to “go back to the same misguided policies that led us into this mess.”
In the larger context, the president is really just asking for the bare minimum here — aid for the jobless and loans for small businesses. What I’d really like to see is the White House craft an ambitious jobs/stimulus bill with a demand that Congress vote on it before wrapping up for the year. Give Democrats something to fight for, and the base something to get excited about.
That said, Obama’s clearly right to demand that Congress at least tackle jobless aid and small businesses loans — and soon. Just as importantly, it’s heartening to hear the president call Republicans out with more partisan rhetoric than we’re accustomed to.
More of this, please.