The House of Representatives is heading home for a 5-week, PAID holiday. For those who have been unemployed, you know how hard they have been working, ginning up fake crises, while failing to address in any way that could be called meaningful the major problems facing the American people. That's hard work. Five weeks of R&R is barely enough.
In the meantime, there still will be no jobs bill. None. There will be no help for the long-term unemployed. None. And, aviation construction projects will be halted throwing nearly 100,000 people out of work, and will cost the government $1.2 billion in lost taxes.
The president, we are told, has recently read a biography of Ronald Reagan, seeking patterns in Reagan's approach.
Here's one he might consider, seizing the initiative after a major downer: after the barracks' bombing killed more than 200 Marines, after he tucked-tail-and-ran out of Lebanon, President Reagan turned right around and launched an attack on Grenada. Reagan's poor understanding of the risks, lack of safety planning, and hightailing it out of Lebanon were overshadowed by news showing "decisive leadership", helicopter gunships landing and saving a group of Americans in the Caribbean island of Grenada. At the Republican convention in 1984, Reagan's pal, Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt, hailed him as standing "10 feet tall, 10 feet tall" for his "courage" in attacking Grenada. [That would probably make President Obama seem 1000 feet tall for his much more daring and difficult attack on the bin Laden compound, but do not expect anyone to say this at the Democratic Convention in 2012, bite your tongue!]
Although the president's deal on the debt ceiling is not as bad as it has been portrayed (basically, the Republicans screw the American people with just $60B in cuts prior to the 2012 election, when their greater harm that will emerge in round 2 of this idiotic process can be undone by major election victories), it still cannot be said that it was very well played.
Just like Grenada handed Reagan an opportunity to rebound, the Republican Congress's 5-week vacation following their utter disregard for workers -- as evidenced by lack of a single jobs program, their refusal to fund the FAA, and the absence of any help for the unemployed -- has provided President Obama a chance to change the conversation, abruptly.
Proclaim an emergency on jobs, unemployment insurance extension and the Federal Aviation Administration's funding. Call both Houses into special session in August to deal with these specific problems.
There is very good reason that each of these constitutes an emergency. The economy is sliding back into recession, and job growth remains stagnant. The Federal Aviation Administration's funding will, among other things, throw tens of thousands more construction workers out of work. The unemployed have waited for the Republicans to fulfill their promise to create jobs -- and all we have seen since their policies have begun to bite is a reversal of the stimulus's effect on job creation. To the inevitable cries of why these matters had not been addressed before, the president can, rightly, cite the Republican-invented debt ceiling crisis that is, however awkwardly, behind us and parry criticisms that he has not brought the issue front and center with his call for a special session.
If the president prefers to follow a Democratic president's lead instead of Reagan's, or to look for a domestic policy example for guidance, he can refer back to Harry Truman. At 3AM when he finally got to speak at his own convention in 1948, President Truman called a special session of Congress to pass the bills the Republican platform had claimed they all supported. Republicans' failure to act on their own promises in the special session set the stage for the "do-nothing Congress"/"give'm hell campaign" of 1948.
Whichever historical analogy is most apt, the president should recall that his two clearest, most unambiguous successes -- the bin Laden raid and saving the US auto industry -- arose from bold decisive actions. The American middle class needs another one.
Let John Boehner restore his fading tan by paying the tanning booth tax to help fund healthcare reform, rather than giving him 5-weeks on the golf course.
The president needs to cancel his vacation, too. He needs to lead with specific measures, and campaign for them. He needs to employ his bully pulpit to explode right-wing economic mythology (raising taxes reduces jobs, tax-cuts pay for themselves, we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem) that has undermined American strength and values, while plumping for the specific bills he wants.
The American people need it. The American people deserve it.
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