Following up on an earlier item, the Associated Press is reporting that President Obama will deliver a major policy address in early September, presenting “new ideas” on job creation and supporting the middle class.
The president’s plan is likely to contain tax cuts, jobs-boosting infrastructure ideas and steps that would specifically help the long-term unemployed. The official emphasized that all of Obama’s proposals would be fresh ones, not a rehash of plans he has pitched for many weeks and still supports, including his “infrastructure bank” idea to finance construction jobs.
On a related front, Obama will also present a specific plan to cut the suffocating long-term national debt and to pay for the cost of his new short-term economic ideas.
His debt proposal will be bigger than the $1.5 trillion package that a new “supercommittee” of Congress must come up with by late November.
The White House intends to have the president’s plan available in advance of the first meeting of the Murray/Hensarling panel on Sept. 16, which would suggest the speech would occur soon after Labor Day.
I can appreciate why the m.o. may seem predictable — the White House runs into trouble; Obama delivers a major speech — because we’ve seen this dynamic many times before, but I nevertheless believe this approach is a very good idea. Crafting a jobs agenda is not only the obvious approach when it comes to public policy, it also helps shift the larger conversation away from the obsession over the debt.
The speech will (hopefully) show that the president’s priorities are sound, give the left something to fight for, and present Republicans with a question they may struggle to answer: now that the White House has presented a plan to create jobs, where’s the GOP plan?
Republicans will, of course, reflexively reject whatever Obama presents, but the White House expects that and intends to use it — the president can position himself as the one fighting to create jobs and grow the economy, confronting far-right Republicans who refuse to do the right thing.
Note, however, that debt reduction will still be a part of the plan. The “super committee” will be searching for $1.5 trillion in savings, and the soon-to-be-announced White House agenda will push the panel’s members to be even more ambitious. It is, in effect, setting the stage for a different kind of grand bargain — Republicans would get more debt reduction, Democrats would get to create more jobs.
And in the bigger picture, it also appears that the internal White House debate over how best to proceed — an ambitious-but-confrontational approach vs. a pragmatic/incremental approach — is over and the former came out on top. Conciliation and cooperation wasn’t working, so let’s have a fight over jobs. It’s a jobs Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue think they can win, and they’re right.
When Republicans say “no jobs, no way,” at least the nation will be able to see where both parties stand, and then choose accordingly next year.
As is always the case, the substantive details will make all the difference, and at this point, no one knows what they are. But for the first time in a while, there seems to be cause for some cautious optimism, at least as far as the nature of the debate is concerned.