The president is about to fall into a trap.
The Republicans know that if they reject all of the president's coming proposals, it could backfire. Being perceived as completely unwilling to pass any jobs legislation could run the risk of their being run out of office in November.
What they will do instead is play on the president's eagerness to be the Great Bipartisan, but water down his coming bills just enough to guarantee their effect will be anemic at best. By cooperating just enough -- say on veterans bills and the payroll tax -- Republicans get to claim the mantle of reasonableness and steal the one issue that might bring independents to vote for the president in November. If by some miracle, the proposals work, they can claim it's because of the changes they insisted upon. If the proposals don't work, the continued high unemployment is all they need to guarantee a President Perry.
A half-assed jobs bill is worse than no jobs bills at all and here's why. If the president wins in November, but doesn't win back majorities in both houses, he will be forced to extend the Bush tax cuts again. Their expiration is the only long-term hope for the economy, which is destined for permanent and irreversible decline as long as 99% of the population is forced to compete for a smaller and smaller portion of the wealth pie. Income inequality is the alpha and omega of America's economic armageddon; we are on the bullet-train to becoming the United States Banana Republic of Texas if the increasing concentration of wealth in the top 1% is not derailed.
Obama needs to make proposals so sweeping they are guaranteed not to pass in this Congress. He needs to campaign on their passage as the first act of his re-elected administration, insisting every vote for him must also turn swing districts blue again. He must even predict the failure of these bills in the current House, underline it and broadcast it. We need to hear the words: "These proposals will not pass because Republicans will not vote for any bills that might actually reduce unemployment while I am president. They care more about guaranteeing the political failure of Barack Obama than making sure the American people have enough policemen, firefighters, teachers, and nurses. They want power for themselves more than they want prosperity for all Americans. I am furious at the continued hardship they will bring to so many of you in 2012. But if you throw the self-seeking obstructionists out of office in November, I guarantee you that I can put this country back to work and on the road to permanent prosperity."
Ironically, the Republicans don't even really care if he wins in November. As long as they have the House and enough to filibuster in the Senate, they can guarantee more of the same economy that is working very well for them. Their wealthy corporate overlords are making record profits, and they have an increasing pool of cheap, non-union labor to choose from. The Republicans love being in opposition -- how convenient to have a black president to shoulder with the responsibility of all of their failed policies.
Not that they know it, but a Republican nightmare would be a Perry administration. A shredding of the social safety net, repeal of Obamacare and continuation of the Bush tax cuts will make 2008 look like the good ole' days. Perry will be Herbert Hoover in cowboy boots, twanging about cluelessly, unable to understand why he's overseeing a Depression worse than the first, as increasingly severe natural disasters gut an aging infrastructure left to fall into disrepair. A Perry win would be a man-made disaster for the Republicans in 2014 and 2016, even perhaps resulting in a second "I told you so" Obama Presidential term.
How perversely poetic; Obama needs to lose in order to win; if Perry wins, he loses. Welcome to the upside-down world of the United States in 2011.
Follow Mark Olmsted on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MarquisMarq