Next Wednesday President Obama will unveil his jobs plan.
He’ll choose either Plan A or Plan B.
Plan A would be big enough to restart the economy (now barely growing) and reduce unemployment (which continues to grow). That means spending another trillion dollars over the next two years – rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, creating a new WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps, and lending money to cash-starved states and cities.
Republicans will oppose it, of course. They’ll say the stimulus didn’t work the first time (they’re wrong – it saved 3 million jobs but it was way too small given the drop in consumer spending as well as budget cuts by states and cities), and we can’t afford it (wrong again – the yield on 10-year Treasury bills is now 2 percent, meaning this is the best time to borrow. And if growth isn’t restored soon, the debt/GDP ratio will balloon beyond belief). But their real hope is to keep the economy anemic through Election Day 2012 so voters will send Obama home.
That means the President would have to fight for it. He’d have to barnstorm the country, demanding Republican votes. He’d build his 2012 campaign around it, attacking the Republican “do nothing” Congress. He’d give ‘em hell.
Plan B would be a bunch of policy miniatures that would have almost no effect on the economy or employment but would nonetheless be good things to do (extending the Social Security tax cut, extending unemployment benefits, reauthorizing the highway building trust fund, giving employers a tax incentive to hire the long-term unemployed, ratifying trade agreements).
Republicans will oppose it, of course. They’ll say this is no time for new initiatives, that our biggest problem is the size of government, debt, and over-regulation. They’ve been saying almost exactly the same thing for eighty years.
The President would present each of his policy miniatures as a separate piece of legislation hoping to attract enough Republican votes to get something – anything – enacted and declare a victory. He’d then campaign as a leader who can “get things done,” even though the economy is still a basket case.
Which will it be — Plan A or B? Early indications suggest Plan B. The President is now saying his upcoming plan will generate “up to a million jobs.” But with 25 million Americans looking for full-time jobs that’s chump change.
At exactly the same time the President is laying out his jobs plan next Wednesday night, Republican presidential hopefuls will be holding their first big debate. The winner will be the one who comes off as the toughest fighter for average Americans.
The winner of the 2012 presidential election will be the person who comes off as the toughest fighter for average Americans.
Earth to Obama: Remember Harry (Give ‘em Hell) Truman.
Here’s Truman’s acceptance speech at the Philadelphia convention that nominated him prior to the 1948 election:
Senator Barkley and I will win this election and make those Republicans like it… We will do that because they are wrong and we are right… [T]he people know the Democratic Party is the people’s party, and the Republican Party is the party of special interests and it always has been and always will be… The Republican Party… favors the privileged few and not the common, every-day man. Ever since its inception that Party has been under the control of special privilege, and they concretely proved it in the 80th Congress. They proved it by the things they did to the people and not for them. They proved it by the things they failed to do.
Give em hell, Barack.
Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He writes a blog at www.robertreich.org. His most recent book is Aftershock