I mentioned that Democrats would come out swinging today on jobs, pivoting back and demanding stimulus in any debt limit deal. But the actual press event they held seemed more like an opportunity to blame Republicans for deliberately sinking the economy. They weren’t very mysterious about this at all. As Chuck Schumer said, “If [Republicans would] oppose something so suited to their tastes ideologically, it shows that they’re just opposing anything that would help create jobs. It almost makes you wonder if they aren’t trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain.”
“Our Republican colleagues in the House and Senate are driven by putting one man out of work: President Obama,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Boehner “said it [a deeper payroll tax cut] was only a short-term game. I mean, for heaven’s sake, we need a few short-term games around here.”
Reid, Schumer and most of the other Senate Dems were talking about the payroll tax cut, and that was the main job-creation measure brought up in this press event. I’ve already detailed whether or not such a payroll tax, particularly if it were expanded to the employer side, would actually create jobs. Needless to say, just about everyone outside of, for some reason, the CBO, believes that there are far better measures to undertake. Infrastructure spending, for example, has a higher multiplier. And direct job creation on pressing state and local needs, even just through stopping the bleeding in the states, or through building a modern-day WPA or Civilian Conservation Corps, would have a stronger impact.
Now, Senate Democrats did bring up infrastructure spending, and also clean energy job support (I think that means the production tax credit). But that wasn’t really the focus here. The focus was to blame Republicans for wanting to sabotage the economy. On that point, I think they’re probably right. It’s not like Republicans have been hiding this fact. But in addition, I’d like to see some more creative steps taken. What about the Chinese currency manipulation bill? What about demanding that the Fed charge banks for parking their reserves? What about actually getting the Small Business Lending Fund money out the door? If you’re going to make an argument that the government is not actually powerless to stop the economy from sinking, it seems to me that the steps you should take, at least rhetorically, should reflect that power. Instead, we’re talking about who’s intentionally trying to ruin what. It’s a good message, but with some actual decent plans rather than more tax cuts it would be a better one.
Not to mention the fact that the weak stimulus, inability to stop foreclosures and tailoring of the economy to the rich and powerful can elicit a response from those accused: “We’re destroying the economy? You beat us to it!” Now, that would be a cynical Republican response, but they’ll certainly give it a try. And while the public is deeply confused about economics because one entire political party has until now abandoned the rhetorical playing field, they’re starting to make up their minds.