NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Raw “deal”

As we’ve not­ed with the pas­sage of the debt ceil­ing “deal” ear­li­er today in the House, there is plen­ty not to like. From the capit­u­la­tion of the oth­er Wash­ing­ton’s Democ­rats on core beliefs to a lack of rev­enue, no longer can Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and his sup­port­ers in Con­gress claim the man­tle of change. And now we can add one more casu­al­ty to the list: jobs and unem­ployed work­ers. Accord­ing to the Bureau of Labor Sta­tis­tics there are near­ly 14 mil­lion peo­ple who are unem­ployed across the nation, and this leg­is­la­tion does noth­ing to address that issue. No new jobs and no exten­sion of ben­e­fits. Nothing.

Per­haps if the Pres­i­dent and Con­gress spent more time and effort on putting peo­ple to work, the Amer­i­can econ­o­my would rebound faster. Instead, one of the great­est prob­lems fac­ing our econ­o­my goes unad­dressed.

More imme­di­ate­ly, but equal­ly trou­bling, this agree­ment would not address our most press­ing eco­nom­ic prob­lem: lack of jobs. On the con­trary, by reduc­ing deficits start­ing next year, this deal would do the very oppo­site of what vir­tu­al­ly every main­stream econ­o­mist now believes we should do: increase con­sumer demand by pump­ing more mon­ey into the econ­o­my. At one point, the debt ceil­ing agree­ment includ­ed promis­es to extend unem­ploy­ment insur­ance and renew a break on the pay­roll tax. Those two would have pro­vid­ed a mod­est but very real boost to the econ­o­my (not to men­tion finan­cial relief to peo­ple who need it). This deal would do neither.

Just one month ago, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma acknowl­edged that  putting peo­ple to work was the most seri­ous eco­nom­ic prob­lem fac­ing the Unit­ed States.

Today the sin­gle most seri­ous eco­nom­ic prob­lem we face is get­ting peo­ple back to work,” Oba­ma told employ­ees of Cree, a Durham com­pa­ny that makes LEDs used in ener­gy-effi­cient lights. “We sta­bi­lized the econ­o­my. We pre­vent­ed a finan­cial melt­down. An econ­o­my that was shrink­ing is now growing.

“But I’m still not sat­is­fied,” Oba­ma said. “I will not be sat­is­fied until every­one who wants a good job that offers some secu­ri­ty has a good job that offers some security.”

Has the sit­u­a­tion changed all that much in one month? Not even marginally.

To be sure, the Pres­i­dent would argue that he got the best deal he could in this sit­u­a­tion.  But when the nego­ti­a­tions start­ed  from the cen­ter-right and the solu­tion is right-wing, how hard did the Pres­i­dent actu­al­ly fight for work­ing fam­i­lies? It’s one thing to aspire to greater heights than thought pos­si­ble and to use inspi­ra­tional rhetoric to get there. How­ev­er, when the rhetor­i­cal gym­nas­tics don’t match the actions, as in this case, it’s hard not to see Oba­ma and Con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats as (with apolo­gies to Shake­speare), full of sound and fury, sig­ni­fy­ing nothing.

To allow a small, vocal fac­tion of one par­ty (which only con­trols one house of one branch of gov­ern­ment) to hijack the leg­isla­tive process and hold it hostage, shows either an incom­pe­tence or an irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty nev­er before seen in Con­gress or the White House. Either way, it’s shame­ful. Rome is burn­ing and the Pres­i­dent and Con­gress are adding fuel to the fire.

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