Ignoring an alarm

IGNORING AN ALARM…. In light of the latest discouraging jobs report — the third consecutive month in which the job totals were disappointing — there’s an obvious course ahead. Heidi Shierholz, an economist from the Economic Policy Institute, said, “The economic case for more government action to create jobs is about as clear as they come.”

Right. It’s painfully obvious. The problem is staring us right in the face. And yet, nothing will happen because our political system is such a mess.

Significant action in the Senate is obviously out of the question, since the chamber is largely paralyzed. But the House has its own problem — panicky Democrats who are afraid to do the right thing. Politico reports that some of these hand-wringing Dems might even be afraid to help save school teachers’ jobs next week.

When the House returns next week to rubber-stamp the Senate’s $26 billion state-aid package, Democrats will take a political crapshoot.

Even though party leaders expect that approval will be a slam-dunk, some early responses from rank-and-file Democrats have raised red flags about the optics of returning to a special session to vote on more spending — even if it’s framed as saving teachers’ jobs.

The risk for Democrats as they seek to bolster their flagging election prospects is that some of their vulnerable members will feel like they have to walk the plank, yet again, on a politically unpopular economic-stimulus agenda, while reminding voters of their failure to handle routine budget work this year.

This really is crazy. With the economy sputtering, here’s a bill that will help prevent tens of thousands of layoffs, including school teachers and firefighters. It’s paid for, and won’t add a dime to the deficit. It enjoyed bipartisan support in the Senate, and even Ben Nelson voted for it.

But for some panicky House Dems, saving jobs means spending money, and “spending = bad.” Why? Because Republicans say so.

This need not be complicated. These frightened Democrats think spending is unpopular? Here’s something that’s more unpopular — unemployment and an economy moving in the wrong direction. Republicans have these Dems so rattled, they’re afraid of the disease and the cure.

Passing the state-aid bill should be the easiest of no-brainers, but the fact that even this is problematic makes ambitious policymaking impossible. Ideally, right now, Democrats should be preparing a massive jobs bill, without any concern at all for the deficit. When asked if they consider job growth more important than the deficit, Dems should be bold about it: “You’re damn right we do.”

None of this will happen; economic conditions will drag Democrats down further; and Republicans who are hopelessly backwards about the basics will be rewarded for their dangerous ignorance.