This is going to be a bad week for President Obama, at least when it comes to jobs. Last month’s terrible weather will impact the jobless rate, showing that tens of thousands of jobs were lost as a result of winter storms. Once again, Americans are going to look at Obama and ask: What are you doing about it buddy?
When Americans ask Obama where the jobs are, he will fortunately have an answer for them. Last week, a jobs bill was passed in the Senate, and surprisingly, it was the moderate Republicans who helped block a pending filibuster. Scott Brown of Massachusetts led the charge, serving notice that he is willing to work with the other side in order to get things done in Washington. This is a good sign that moderate Republicans might be willing to break rank to actually help create a productive Congress.
The nastiest move in Congress last week was by Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, who decided to block the extension of health insurance benefits to the unemployed. He claims that he is blocking the measure to make the point that our government is being hypocritical by passing “pay-as-you-go” legislation and then contradicting the legislation right after passing it.
Bunning has a point that the deficit is spiraling out of control. Also, his gesture is likely symbolic, since the measure is expected to be passed next week. Simultaneously, it is ironic that he chooses the absolute worst time to start worrying about the deficit. He has been in the Senate since 1998 and would hardly have engaged in such a spectacle during the massive spending of the Bush administration. Additionally, we must confront the fact that it makes no sense for us to expect a president to create jobs while telling him that he can’t touch the deficit. That’s like telling an unemployed man with no savings that he can’t use his credit card to get a ride to work. Bunning should stop grandstanding, since he is the one who will be blamed when over a million Americans lose their benefits.
One of the key questions these days is whether or not jobs legislation should be passed piecemeal or in one massive clump. My vote: let’s do it piecemeal and here are the reasons why:
1) Smaller spending won’t alarm the public: Right now, the deficit is one of the leading concerns for Americans behind jobs. By aiming for another gargantuan spending measure in the hundreds of billions of dollars, Obama is set to become a spitting image of the heavy spending president that the Republicans have painted him to be.
2) Several pieces of good news is better than a one time hit: Given that the president has made job creation his top priority for 2010, it is important that he send a long list of consistent signals that he is dealing with the task of providing jobs in America. While one major economic announcement will disappear quickly in an ever more rapid media cycle, several announcements are due to have more staying power.
3) Piecemeal legislation might make it easier to work with those pesky Republicans: President Obama is being reminded daily that working with moderate Republicans will be necessary for him to get anything done. By creating bills with manageable price tags, the president can deviate from the Congressional gridlock of 2009.
A broader point to be made is that our government will never get the deficit under control and entitlement spending will lead to decades of economic headaches. We have an aging population, which will cause declines in national productivity. Additionally, while politicians spend more when times are bad, they don’t reduce spending when times are good. That is the way of Washington, and that’s why you’d better make sure you’re putting money into your 401k.