President Obama assumed office with the promise that he would conduct business differently in Washington. In the afterglow of Abraham Lincoln's birthday, Obama has an opportunity to strengthen his leadership by emulating qualities beyond Lincoln's skills at bringing differing voices together. The president needs to channel Lincoln's steely resolve on the issue of jobs.
President Obama should maximize the power of the bully pulpit and make clear that he will veto any jobs bill that won't get enough people back to work to stabilize the economy. The Senate's sorry excuse for a jobs bill should be the first example President Obama cites as he explains to the American people that he won't settle for sub par work from Congress in improving our economy.
I understand that Harry Reid is tired from 2009's epic battles over health care. I understand that Snowmageddon may have caused snow blindness for some who believed they were actually doing good with this bill. But if Senators think their jobs bill is progress toward greater prosperity, they've completely lost touch with reality. The American people deserve better from the Senate. And President Obama should demand it.
The New York Times does a great job disemboweling the Senate's jobs bill in their lead op-ed on Friday, February 12th.
Here are a few lowlights from the Times' dissection: The $85 billion bill that emerged from the Senate Finance Committee called for less than a third of the $266 billion that Obama proposed in his budget for jobs based stimulus. The largest piece of the Senate's proposal -- $31 billion, doesn't even directly address jobs, according to the New York Times.
Obama's team says we need to create 95,000 jobs per month in 2010 to stabilize the economy. Some economists believe we'll need 120,000 jobs created per month to reach this goal. An $85 billion proposal won't do the job (pun intended).
President Obama is clearly weary himself from the firestorm of his first year in office. But the shenanigans around the jobs bill provide an opportunity for him to break the mold of Rube Goldberg public policy, and to create real change for the American economy and our political process.
Threatening a veto would come with risks, and his opponents would howl. But recent polls show that Obama is trusted more than the GOP in how to move us forward on the economy. And an explicit threat of a veto would open a window that would allow him to communicate directly to Americans and the press on what success should look like in a jobs bill. The President should seize this opportunity.
I have no doubt that the White House is furiously evaluating alternatives on how to navigate the choppy waters around the jobs issue. They are assuredly contemplating what FDR, Clinton and Reagan would have done. But they can reach farther back. It is time for Obama to channel Lincoln's unbending resolve, and demand better for the American people.
President Obama voiced this kind of intent forcefully in the State of the Union when he declared:
"We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment -- to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more."
These could have been Lincoln's own words. President Obama needs the Senate to understand what not quitting really means. We can't afford anything less.
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