White House jobs plan takes shape

We’ll get a better sense of the new White House jobs agenda tomorrow night, but as the plan comes together, some of the details appear to be leaking. According to several overnight accounts, President Obama will present an economic package that totals about $300 billion, including both investments and tax cuts.

According to people familiar with the White House deliberations, two of the biggest measures in the president’s proposals for 2012 are expected to be a one-year extension of a payroll tax cut for workers and an extension of expiring jobless benefits. Together those two would total about $170 billion. […]

The White House is also considering a tax credit for businesses that hire the unemployed. That could cost about $30 billion. Obama has also called for public works projects, such as school construction. Advocates of that plan have called for spending of $50 billion, but the White House proposal is expected to be smaller.

Obama also is expected to continue for one year a tax break for businesses that allows them to deduct the full value of new equipment.

The president reportedly intends to pay for the plan — though financing details are not yet clear — but the joint session speech will not sketch out a deficit-reduction plan. Those measures will come from the White House next week.

Other reports indicated Obama also intends to push “a program to prevent teacher layoffs,” presumably through aid to states, which would also be encouraging.

I would imagine the details of the agenda will be changing through tomorrow afternoon, but these early reports suggest the White House is at least aiming in the right direction. Given the larger economic circumstances, a $300 billion package is probably too small, and an emphasis on tax cuts over direct investment will deliver less bang for the buck, but these preliminary leaks suggest the president and his team are on the right track, though hopefully they can be convinced to aim even higher with an even more ambitious approach.

Sure, congressional Republicans will reject whatever Obama presents, but that’s all the more reason not to hold back. As E.J. Dionne Jr. explained two weeks ago, “Obama should not be constrained by what the Tea Party might allow subservient Republican leaders in Congress to do. He should state plainly, eloquently and in detail what he thinks needs to happen. Neither history nor the voters will be kind to him if he lets caution and political calculation get in the way.”

For their part, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told Obama in a letter yesterday they are “not opposed to initiatives to repair and improve infrastructure,” but they are reluctant to spend money to repair and improve infrastructure.

Maybe if they close their eyes, click their heels, and say “Infrastructure Fairy” three times, the resources will magically appear.