By Josh Marks
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s new book “End This Depression Now!” has made him a popular progressive. His Keynesian ideas are as refreshing as mountain air after years of conservative deficit hawks punishing the American people and holding back the economic recovery with draconian cuts to the public sector. But while it is empowering to hear Krugman talk about how to really create jobs and grow the economy through government spending, many of us have been waiting for President Obama to go on the offensive and back the radical right-wing Republicans into a corner.
If his recent weekly address is any indication, Obama is getting the message. He is starting to pound away at the obstructionist Republicans for blocking his jobs legislation that would put a million teachers, firefighters and police officers back to work; and would put countless construction workers back on the job rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure — roads, bridges, rail, runways, broadband, piping, etc…
It’s working. In response, Mitt Romney actually came out against federal aid to state and local governments so they can hire back teachers, firefighters and police officers. Romney says “it’s time for us to cut back on government” by laying off more firefighters, police officers and teachers. And this isn’t just election year talk to appeal to the radical right-wing Republican base. Romney has a proven record of cutting the public sector and destroying jobs while governor of Massachusetts. In fact, when he left office the Bay State was 47th out of 50 states in job growth.
Krugman and other progressives need to keep the pressure on the Obama campaign to stay on the offensive about how public sector cuts are hurting the economic recovery. In turn, Obama can be emboldened knowing the people are behind him to box the obstructionist, do-nothing House Republicans and Romney into a corner and put them on the defensive for rejecting the majority of the $447 billion American Jobs Act proposed last September that would have put millions of Americans back to work and put us on a path to a more robust recovery. Last September, the President gave a speech to a joint session of Congress in which he mentioned “jobs” 38 times and repeatedly implored Congress to pass the bill right away.
And what was in the American Jobs Act?
– $50 billion on infrastructure projects and establishment of National Infrastructure Bank
– $35 billion to prevent more teachers, firefighters and police officers from being laid off
– $30 billion to modernize public schools and community colleges
– $15 billion for construction workers to rehabilitate foreclosed homes and businesses
– Expanding access to high-speed wireless service to at least 98% of Americans
– Funding Pathways Back to Work program for low-income youth and adults
Obama is right to go after the Republicans for rejecting the American Jobs Act. Pounding away at the GOP’s obstruction of this job creation legislation and telling the American people how public sector cuts are hurting the overall economy is the right thing to do politically and the right thing to do for the country.
Here is Obama in his own words in his weekly address last Saturday. This is the kind of message not just progressives, but all Americans can and should get behind:
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking a lot about America’s economic future. I’ve told you how I believe we should go about creating strong, sustained growth; how we should pay down our long-term debt in a balanced way; and most of all, what we should do right now to create good, middle-class jobs, so people who work hard can get ahead.
This isn’t some abstract debate or trivial argument. I’ve said that this is the defining issue of our time, and I mean it. I’ve said that this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and I believe it. The decisions we make over the next few years will have an enormous impact on the country we live in, and the one we pass on to our children.
Right now, we’re still fighting our way back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The economy is growing again, but it’s not growing fast enough. Our businesses have created 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months, but we’re not creating them fast enough. And we’re facing some pretty serious headwinds – from the effects of the recent spike in gas prices, to the financial crisis in Europe.
But here’s the thing. We have the answers to these problems. We have plenty of big ideas and technical solutions from both sides of the aisle. That’s not what’s holding us back. What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington.
Last September, I sent Congress a jobs bill full of the kinds of bipartisan ideas that could have put over a million Americans back to work and helped bolster our economy against outside shocks. I sent them a plan that would have reduced our deficit by $4 trillion in a balanced way that pays for the investments we need by cutting unnecessary spending and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more in taxes.
Since then, Congress has passed a few parts of that jobs bill, like a tax cut that’s allowing working Americans to keep more of your paycheck every week. But on most of the ideas that would create jobs and grow our economy, Republicans in Congress haven’t lifted a finger. They’d rather wait until after the election in November. Just this past week, one of them said, “Why not wait for the reinforcements?” That’s a quote. And you can bet plenty of his colleagues are thinking the same thing.
I think that’s wrong. This isn’t about who wins or loses in Washington. This is about your jobs, your paychecks, your children’s future. There’s no excuse for Congress to stand by and do nothing while so many families are struggling. None.
Right now, Congress should pass a bill to help states put thousands of teachers, firefighters and police officers back on the job. They should have passed a bill a long time ago to put thousands of construction workers back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and runways. And instead of just talking about job creators, they should give small-business owners a tax break for hiring more workers and paying them higher wages.
Right now, Congress should give every responsible homeowner the opportunity to save an average of $3,000 a year by refinancing their mortgage. They should extend tax credits for clean energy manufacturers so we don’t walk away from 40,000 good jobs. And instead of giving tax breaks to companies who ship jobs overseas, Congress should take that money and use it to cover moving expenses for companies that are bringing jobs back to America. There’s no reason to wait.
Every problem we face is within our power to solve. What’s lacking is our politics. Remind your Members of Congress why you sent them to Washington in the first place. Tell them to stop worrying about the next election and start worrying about the next generation. I’m ready to work with anyone – Republican, Democrat, or Independent – who is serious about moving this country forward. And I hope Members of Congress will join me.
Thanks, and have a great weekend.