Belmont Club

"Get on board"

President Obama gave some indication of what his speech to Congress will be about.  He told a crowd about his plan to generate jobs by building roads, bridges and other works.

“We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding,” he told a Labor Day holiday crowd of more than 10,000 gathered to hear him speak in Detroit, the nation’s car industry capital.

“We’ve got more that one million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty right now. There is work to be done and there are workers ready to do it. Labor’s on board, business is on board. We just need congress to get on board.”

In all likelihood, he plans to turn to Congress right after his speech and say ‘Vote me the money. Get on board’, or words to that effect. About $300 billion worth of money, according to some reports. But Nancy Pelosi is worried that the Congress will simply ignore him, a prospect that fills her with anger.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says that the Republican leadership’s decision to forgo a direct response to President Barack Obama’s jobs speech Thursday is “not only disrespectful to him, but to the American people.” …

“In nearly 250 days of being in the Majority, House Republicans have not passed a single piece of legislation to create jobs,” Pelosi said in the statement. “The Republican silence on Thursday evening will speak volumes about their lack of commitment to creating jobs.”

But it’s hardly silence. It more or less shouts, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” In a week where President Obama was advised by CNN analyst to “chuck the cool”, “show who is boss” and in other places to “ignore Boehner”, hardly enough thought seems to have been given to the possibility that Boehner might ignore him.

The AJC says that the White House wants “quick jobs action by Congress”. But that eagerness only emphasizes the President’s real problem. He needs Congress to get him out of a jam. What if they don’t give him a hand?

Carney tells reporters traveling with Obama on a tour of flood damage in New Jersey that “we are at a time in our economy when we need to do something.”

Carney says Obama will press lawmakers to act quickly on his ideas.

In that case the President will simply have to ‘go over their heads to the American people’. He’s tried this before and maybe he’ll try again. Whether he fares better depends on finding some way to explain to the public how the money to pay construction workers at union rates is not really going to come from them. How he’s going to do this remains to be seen. News reports say his jobs package is also going to include “targeted tax cuts” as well as a spending program. Any program that aims to simultaneously spend money, cut taxes and not raise the deficit is bound to be greeted with some skepticism. Nor is that the only challenge. The President must find some way to simultaneously sweet talk Congress while calling them defenders of big business, though not always in the same sentence. On newspaper put the problem this way:

The difficulty for Mr Obama is that he can only urge congress to act and can initiate little on his own. Republicans are not only loath to approve new spending that would add to deficits; they are also sceptical about further spending measures after doubting the economic benefit of the $US800 billion stimulus approved a month after Mr Obama took office in January 2009. …

Mr Obama’s plan is expected to involve big new government spending that is at odds with the the priorities of Republicans, who dominate the US House of Representatives. They want no new spending in their quest to tackle long-term budget deficits.

Speaking to a Democrat-friendly audience yesterday, Mr Obama tried to portray the measures he wanted as those his conservative opponents had supported in the past. They are expected to include money for highways, assistance for long-term unemployed and cuts to payroll tax.

With Republicans opposed to any form of tax increases, Mr Obama said he would ask those in congress to prove they would fight just as hard for tax cuts for the middle class as they would concessions for the wealthy and oil companies.

Cynics might say that this is all jockeying over money to buy votes. If true that will only tend to confirm Alexis de Tocquevill’s sad observation. “The American Republic will endure until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money.” Neither side appears to dispute that and seem only interested in being the ones who’ve got the dough.

Losing the midterm election and firing off the stimulus with no lasting effect has left the President low on the only ammunition that matters. Will Congress give him more to shoot at them? Or will they, as former speaker Pelosi fears, simply ignore him.

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