President Barack Obama formally sent an aggressive $447 billion jobs bill to Capitol Hill Monday and renewed his call for Congress to act quickly to combat the stalled U.S. economy. But despite the untenable unemployment situation — 9.1 percent, or 14 million Americans, are currently out of work — and the proposal’s heavy emphasis on tax cuts, the bill’s fate remains uncertain in the decidedly divided Congress.
President Barack Obama formally sent an aggressive $447 billion jobs bill to Capitol Hill Monday and renewed his call for Congress to act quickly to combat the stalled U.S. economy.
Obama says his plan, which he unveiled to lawmakers and the public during a televised address late last week, is needed to solve the deepening jobs crisis and avoid a double-dip recession.
But despite the untenable unemployment situation — 9.1 percent, or 14 million Americans, are currently out of work — and the proposal’s heavy emphasis on tax cuts, the bill’s fate remains uncertain in the decidedly divided Congress.
However, failure to act could prove disastrous, and lawmakers who drag their heels will face an uphill battle convincing voters their objections were ideological in nature, not an example of out-of-touch fat cats electing to put playing politics ahead of the good of the American people.
After all, the plan has plenty for those in both parties to like. Tax cuts — one of Republicans’ bread-and-butter issues — are the centerpiece of the plan and should therefore appeal to those in the GOP. And the fact that the breaks would benefit the middle class and 98 percent of businesses — instead of yet again funneling the savings solely to the wealthy in the vain hope that they will then create jobs, rather than pocket the extra dough — is bound to bring Democrats on board.
New spending for things such as hiring, construction and extending jobless benefits may be a harder sell to Republicans, but according to Keynesian economics — a school of thought from John Keynes, considered to be the father of modern macroeconomics — government spending actually spurs growth and reduces unemployment. As Time magazine remarked when naming Keynes to their list of the 100 most important and influential people of the 20th century, “His radical idea that governments should spend money they don’t have may have saved capitalism.”
Current economists have largely come out in favor of Obama’s plan, with some predicting the Social Security tax cuts alone could create 1 million jobs next year. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, figures the outcome could be far greater: the addition of 2 million jobs — reducing unemployment by a full percentage point — and elevating economic growth by 2 percentage points.
Zandi, who was an economic adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), also believes Obama’s 2009 stimulus package prevented the unemployment rate from rising even higher — by 2 percentage points.
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich says Obama’s plan doesn’t go far enough, however, and he believes the president has been too willing to compromise with Republicans.
“Ninety percent of economists would say the same thing,” he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “This is really mainstream stuff. This shouldn’t be contentious. But it’s very difficult to fight ideology with those who ... believe that the government is the source of all our problems.”
I can see Reich’s point; in a perfect world, our leaders would be free to fight for what they think is right for as long as it takes. But the world we live in is far from perfect, and we all must carefully pick our battles.
The simple fact of the matter is that our country and its citizens need help now, and that means our leaders have to work together and be willing to make concessions. Only after the economy is on stronger footing can we afford the luxury of waging ideological battles.
Amy Gehrt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.