Friday, September 16, 2011

The never ending campaign

Obama jobs plan falls seriously short

In his address to the Congress and the nation, President Obama seemed in a determined fighting mood. The president said many things that will give hope to his dispirited supporters, and perhaps to many Americans.

But we have been there before, in the campaign of 2008, and Mr. Obama did not deliver. The nation got more of the same -- Wall Street and war and the protection of corporate profit as the overarching purpose of the federal government.

Mr. Obama is the most able political campaigner of his age, and his address must be seen for what it was -- a campaign speech. And whatever good the enactment of his many proposals might do, the Republicans in Congress are also campaigning (they never actually stopped), and their devotion to doctrine is as mindless, fanatical and frightening as that of the Ayatollahs in Tehran.

There will be no cooperation.

And even if the heartless, pseudo-Christian social Darwinists in the GOP should hear the cries of millions of struggling Americans, their grudging aide will come at a price: more cuts in the spending that sustains -- barely -- the lives of our most vulnerable citizens and the battered hopes of the beleaguered middle class.

In fact, as he did in the debt ceiling farce, Mr. Obama put those cuts on the table.

But, Mr. Obama's true believers will argue, look at all the good things the president proposed. Well, let's. This was billed as a jobs speech. And the word jobs was said by Mr. Obama 45 times -- almost once a minute. So, where are the jobs?

If Congress agrees to extend unemployment benefits, there will be some immediate spending, but no jobs. Grocery stores, pharmacies, auto repair shops and Wal Mart will see some more business. But it will be short-lived and no cause to hire. Just some quick profit taking and feel good headlines.

Similarly, the proposed cuts in employee and employer payroll taxes, while no doubt welcomed by both and the stuff of future campaign ads, leaves only modest sums in employees' pockets each month. And many American consumers may opt to pay down debt rather than take on new spending, as in fact they have been doing.

And even if Wal Mart adds some non-union, low-wage, no-benefits, part- time jobs, whatever will be sold will likely create more jobs in China than the United States.

And the employer payroll tax reduction will only spur hiring if employers see a sustained increase in demand, and so will lead to no immediate new hires, if ever.

But these payroll tax cuts depress revenues for Social Security and Medicare and give the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all the GOP and many Democrats ammunition in the fear mongering campaign to eliminate both of those programs.

The president also proposed $35 billion to prevent the layoffs of an estimated 280,000 teachers, "while hiring tens of thousands more, along with additional police officers and firefighters," according to the New York Times.

Maybe. Or maybe battered school districts and local governments will use the funds to cover budget shortfalls and avoid tax increases.

The one sure jobs creator was spending on infrastructure. But the amounts proposed, given the need for jobs and the disastrous state of American roads, bridges, schools, water and sewer systems, public transportation and ...

You get the point. And after the recent storms, much of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast is a disaster area. It will take billions just to repair that damage. Obama's proposal got construction workers cheering. That was the point, as with so much of what the president proposed.

But the amounts proposed -- tens of billions -- fall hopelessly short of the scope and scale of the effort needed. And there is no guarantee that the GOP in the Congress will enact any of what the president proposed.

So the never ending campaign never ends. Already, the president and members of Congress are shaking the trees and being shaken down by the established interests that own Washington.

The president and all the GOP hopefuls are raising enormous sums through "super PACS," by passing the already anemic laws to prevent the wholesale selling of the office. And the Washington Post reported last week that members of the "super Congress" -- the elite committee that is charged to slash spending -- have set off on a furious round of fund raising, using their newly powerful positions to their best advantage.

Of course, say Mr. Obama and his would-be opponents, they have no idea what the super PACS that support them are doing with the tens of millions each is raising from contributors with no limit to their giving. And members of the super Congress would never protect the spending their contributors enjoy in exchange for a campaign contribution. That would be -- criminal.

There is no hope or health in Washington. The ship of state has foundered. It is time for the American people to put all the little boats in the water, and look to the states, counties and municipalities to provide the ideas, leadership and jobs that can collectively recover America's stolen prosperity.