President Obama toured the Midwest this week doing his best to redirect focus from his disastrous defeat over the debt ceiling to the issue that everyone outside of Washington wanted him to be concerned with: Jobs. But other than learning how great of a photo backdrop palettes make, we still know very little about how aggressive the president is going to be in this fight. What he has here is the perfect opportunity to push himself off the ropes and start finally swinging again.
Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich (@RBReich) has been way out front on the issue of a comprehensive jobs plan. Aside from proving he appears exactly like I imagine comedian Jon Benjamin’s father to look, Reich’s recent media tour and frequent substantive tweeting has distinguished him as the leading progressive voice on this issue at the moment. And guess what, Mr. Reich was also a member of Obama’s economic transition advisory board. I can only hope this means he has the president’s ear.
So what is Reich’s position? In a phrase, it’s be bold Mr. President. So far Obama’s presidency has been defined by a whole lot of pragmatism. Great. I’m all for a pragmatic approach to solving our nation’s issues. The problem is that Obama’s pragmatism is too easily trumped by the Right’s bully politics. The Republican strategy of fighting tooth and nail for every political ounce of flesh has driven the so-called compromise point far far away from any policy that resembles Obama’s vision; barely pragmatic.
What the president must do with his jobs package next month is deliver an opening salvo to the debate so dramatic that it galvanizes the Left and gives us something worth fighting for. A strong jobs package that includes a robust WPA style program for giving people immediate jobs, an infrastructure bank that is empowered to actually fund big ticket items, and real money going straight into state coffers to make sure teachers and other public employees don’t have to be laid off will send the message to all the people that voted for him that Obama isn’t afraid of the big bad Republicans. Obama needs to show his base that he knows how to lead; that he remembers that spirit that invigorated the nation and made us feel the sensation of something we seem to have forgotten in the months since. Hope.
If we have learned anything from the 112th congress it’s that the anti-Obama strategy is to not let any bill pass that has any chance of being perceived as a win for the President. In this political climate, the Republicans are going to bitch and moan and cry about whatever jobs package Obama puts forth. Come on Mr. President! It’s time to give them something to really cry about.
For more specifics on Robert Reich’s plan, visit RobertReich.org.