Last night, the first individual piece of the American Jobs Act to face a vote in the Senate met defeat. I know, I know: Hard to believe Republicans would vote against giving $35 billion to states and cities to hire and retain “teachers and first responders.” Sure, we’re in debt and the last stimulus failed — but this round of spending is paid for with tax hikes. What’s not to like?
Surely those GOP-ers will agree to spend money we don’t have on the next part of the president’s plan likely to hit the Senate floor — $50 billion for immediate spending on the nation’s transportation network and another $10 billion to create an infrastructure bank. I mean, you hate potholes, don’t you?
Republicans in the Senate must love them because this piece is as unlikely to pass as the last one. In fact, Democrats must love ’em, too, because a similar proposal a couple years ago ginned up little enthusiasm in Congress — and that was when the House was still in Democratic hands.
Seriously now, when will this rigmarole be over? Blame whichever side you want, the point is: The president and Congress continue to waste time rather than deal effectively with the deficit and debt, which I will forever maintain must be solved to solve the jobs crisis long-term.
Here’s what I don’t understand: Republicans at least make a case as to why they’re against tax hikes. But the president never explains why he’s opposed to spending cuts. In fact, in interviews, he still reiterates the importance of addressing the deficit — and, even though he advocates a “balanced approach,” he doesn’t deny that spending cuts have to be a part of the package. If two things need to be done to solve a problem and everybody will agree to do one of them, why not do it? Why try to stuff the other unpalatable option down everyone’s throats before you’ve even taken advantage of the universally agreed-upon option? (That’s not to say I agree with the president that we need tax hikes. It’s just to say Republicans would likely be far more open to tax hikes if the federal government had already cut as much spending as possible.) Yes, it’s difficult to determine what to cut, but focus the energy on figuring that out — not on trying to persuade people to accept tax hikes. No one wants to cut programs that will cost special-interest voters; I understand that. But why, really, wouldn’t the president at least partially offset this new spending with even lip-service spending cuts?
Frankly, I’m like most Americans; I think it’s far less a waste of my tax dollars to hire and retain teachers and first responders or to repair potholes (yes, I’m falling for the lingo) than it is to funnel money into, say, broken entitlement programs or to implement — I don’t know — EPA regulations. (That’s not completely accurate, of course; I’m skeptical of the money to states and cities to hire more government workers, not least because I know Democrats have exaggerated the number of teachers who’ve lost their jobs in the first place. But, the point is, I understand the emotional pull of the president’s present appeal.) If the president simply proposed to pay for this new spending with offsetting cuts, he’d really give Republicans no leg to stand on for their opposition. If he’s really convinced these measures will create jobs, why risk their non-passage by giving Republicans any excuse to oppose them?
It’s growing tiresome to repeat it, but the point has to be made over and over: With his American Jobs Act and now the piecemeal attempt at passage, the president is playing brutally ugly politics. The president’s plan is working … and it was never to create jobs.