By John Stang
Most liberal bloggers are accepting the fact that the president is in a bind. Another round of stimulus spending is needed to get the economy moving again, although Obama’s political capital is definitely dimished and GOP opposition will be great. Most likely, the president will recommend extending the payroll tax cut, extending unemployment benefits, recommend a program to fix structural unemployment problems, and throw in some more tax cuts. Needless to say, his liberal base will probably hate that speech, but they recognize that is all he do. Matt Yglesias at Think Progress writes:
But precisely the reaction you’ll get to anyinstitutionally feasible stimulus at this point is that it’s a poorly targeted, inefficient desperation move. And in a sense, that’s true. The best time to get this right was back in 2009 when the White House had a much stronger hand.
I agree with Yglesias analysis, the stimulus was poorly structured and had little job creation measures. Much of it was tax cuts and aid for states. Saying that though would admit defeat for the administration and getting a policy do-over is not what the American people want to hear. Another approach is to just stick it to the GOP and go for any progressive job creation measures anyway. Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post cheerleads this position:
So Obama should go big, not small, with his jobs plan. It is hard to overstate how apprehensive most Americans are about the future. Boldness from the president may or may not get the nation’s mojo working again. Timidity surely won’t.
Republican leaders in the House of Representatives would immediately declare any such ambitious program dead on arrival. The president should welcome their opposition — and campaign vigorously against it. He can offer voters a choice between a pinched, miserly vision of the country’s prospects on the one hand and an optimistic, expansive view on the other. He needs to demand what’s right, not what the other side is willing to give.
Jonathan Chait at New Republic gives another reason for Obama to just go for the gold:
The liberal dialogue about stimulus is almost a perfect parallel to the way conservatives talked about Social Security privatization in 2005. The idea was unpopular, and Democrats in the Senate were determined to block it. Conservatives, though, couldn’t acknowledge this. They kept insisting that President Bush push harder, give more speeches, pressure Senate Democrats to give in. Conservatives kept saying this was vital — we had to privatize Social Security or all would be lost, defeat was not an option.
This is not an argument for — to use the popular epithet — “fatalism.” Obama has options. He can do his best to frame the debate so as to clarify that Republicans are blocking popular economic recovery measures, like the payroll tax cut and perhaps some infrastructure projects. Conceivably if he wins reelection, and the democrats make huge gains in the House, republicans will rethink their approach and open themselves up to some kind of compromise in 2013. In the meantime, I see no point in blinding oneself to reality.
Liberals want the president to just stick it to the Republicans because whatever Obama proposes, the GOP will probably hate it anyway. The Republican leadership is already lining up against extending the payroll tax cut. The president sees being a centrist as being the best solution for himself politically, which might be true at this moment. But several months from now, whether or not the president took a moderate position will mean little unless the jobs numbers get better. My calculation is that if the president is going to face opposition from the congressional Republicans anyway, since they see a window politically and think he is wrong ideologically, then he might as well face opposition by channeling his inner progressive and fire up his base at the same time. If the GOP already thinks he’s radical socialist/communist already, then no position he takes will change that. He might as well take on the problem with his own party’s solutions.