There appears to be consensus that intractable unemployment is the biggest problem facing the U.S. The President has -- at least for the moment -- stopped obsessing about the long term deficit and has pivoted to jobs. He gives a big speech in which he forcefully makes the case for immediate action. His proposal, the American Jobs Act, is typically for Obama a modest, reasonable bill that is probably not bold enough, but designed to accommodate at least the saner members of Congress.
Obama hits the road to campaign for the bill, putting his prestige, if not his re-election chances, on the line. Polls show Americans strongly in favor of the bill and want their representatives in Congress to vote for it.
Nevertheless, many Democrats have begun forming a "circular firing squad." As the Times reports, Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania prefers passing only parts of the legislation; Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana refuses to accept closing oil company tax loopholes; Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon opposes the provision calling for payroll tax cuts; Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is concerned about the level of spending; Representative Heath Shuler wants to resolve the deficit before approving new spending for job programs. And despite the urgency for the bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems in no rush to put the bill on the legislative calendar.
Once again, bad policy and bad politics characterize the Democratic Party. Kevin Drum puts it well:
For a brief moment it looked as if maybe, just maybe, Obama had put [the Republicans] in a tough spot: either support a jobs bill their base hated or else look like mindless obstructionists on the single issue most important to the American public. But now? All they have to do is lay low and let Democrats do the dirty work of undermining the bill for them. It's a pretty sweet deal. Sometimes politics is just too easy.