Obama Rediscovers the Connection Between Americans’ Jobs and His Job
Some encouraging news via the Washington Post today:
President Obama is likely to endorse using a portion of the government’s $700 billion financial bailout for a new jobs creation program during a speech about the economy next week, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Friday morning.
“The president thinks we should and must do everything in our power to create an environment for job growth and job creation,” Gibbs said. When asked whether Obama will talk about the use of TARP funds on Tuesday, Gibbs said, “I think that’s likely.”
About $139 billion of the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, remains unallocated and available to the administration. Banks have paid another $10 billion in interest and dividends to the Treasury and returned about $71 billion in aid, the Treasury reported in November. This week, Bank of America announced it would repay its $45 billion package.
As recently as this week, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has said he wants to dedicate much of the unspent TARP money to reduce the national debt. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) and other top Democrats have been crafting a jobs bill that would tap the bailout program. The size of the repayments from once shaky banks may make it possible to accomplish both goals.
. . . Gibbs said the president is likely to talk about multiple ideas for job creation, some of which would require congressional approval. The Tuesday speech at the Brookings Institution follows a day-long jobs summit Thursday and a trip to Allentown, Pennsylvania on Friday to highlight the plight of workers.
This weeklong focus on creating jobs is a refreshing sign that Obama and his top advisers did not, in fact, forget all of their political skills shortly after taking office.
Matt Yglesias adds that the President may be remembering a thing or two about basic messaging as well:
… once Obama’s Allentown event got into the Q&A section it got really good. What was interesting about it was that everything Obama said was so banal. It was elementary, back-to-basics, “I’m a Democrat” kind of stuff… He wasn’t even really all that feisty. But he got out and talked basic politics—who’s on your side, who’s fighting for change, and who’s responsible for protecting the status quo.
In other words, Obama is rediscovering the importance of the fundamental things that got him elected.
There’s a massive element of political calculation involved here, obviously — not just a president taking action to stop the downward drift of his poll numbers, but the Democrats in general needing to provide a positive political message going into 2010.
Even if the stimulative impact of whatever “jobs bill” gets passed is relatively small, much of the money from last spring’s economic-recovery package is still due to be spent this coming year. Giving voters a fresh reminder that Democrats took action will be important for them in taking credit for whatever improvement occurs in the job market, regardless of the cause.
But at least this is the good kind of political calculation… the kind that comes from elected officials realizing they’re accountable for producing positive results for the people who put them in power. Frankly, we could do with a bit more of it.