From these pages and others, and on the Sunday morning yapping shows, the president has been urged, exhorted, begged, entreated to take some very basic actions to serve the country's interests and, by so doing, his own.
Most recently, for example, I urged the president to call a special session of Congress to deal with jobs, unemployment benefits and the FAA. Since then, the president delivered a brief statement on the Tea Party downgrade crisis that, while true enough as far as he went, did nothing to seize the moment, galvanize action and put the onus for not doing what everyone but a small band of fanatics realizes is proper on the Republicans. Since the President's speech, that left the country high-and-dry, many others have chimed in urging the President to call a special session on those issues.
No one, including this writer, has a clue as to why this president -- the most gifted orator since Kennedy or perhaps even since FDR -- has refrained from employing what Richard Neustadt (Presidential Power) called the greatest power of the presidency, the "bully pulpit", not just to set out an agenda, but to provide the broad context for that agenda, and to puncture the mythology upon which rightwing rhetoric that controls deadly serious policy choices is based.
If one cannot "win" the rhetorical battle, one cannot enact good policy. And, one cannot win any battle if one decides not to fight it.
So, here are some actions the president is not taking that many people, in some cases an overwhelming majority of the American people, would at least like to know, "why not?":
1. Calling a Special Session of Congress to deal with jobs and extension of unemployment. Do you, Mr. President, seriously intend to go on vacation, and let Congress stay out for 5 weeks, when people are hurting and the markets are in turmoil? Is this the advice you are getting from "the Davids" (Plouffe and Axelrod)? You said in your brief statement that you are going to wait until Congress gets back. Want to give that another thought?
2. Directly hiring 4-5 million workers as a modern "WPA" for 4 years, and include building retrofits in the 'infrastructure' package. Paying for it with a financial activities ("FAT) tax of 0.5% + top bracket to 39.6%, and fighting for it. It is not a hard argument. If the rightwing and the banks balk, let them take the onus. The direct hiring, as opposed to 'incentives', means they cannot claim that the jobs would not exist.
3. Challenging mythology: for example, for anyone, to supply a single instance in the last 50 years that raising federal income tax rates on the "job creators" cost jobs.
4. Stating your agreement with the overwhelming majority of the American people that support Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security as they are -- and would raise taxes to pay for them.
5. Calling out Republicans for using America as hostage -- and sticking with it when they whine, moan and complain, and then calling them out for whining, moaning and complaining.
Certainly, this list could be longer. But, for right now, and for the immediate critical matters facing the country and his presidency, this will do.
Why, Mr. president, are you not taking these actions?
Since I am asking the question, I will say in advance that I am not interested in hearing what you think is achievable. #1,3-5 are totally up to you, what you are willing to say, and willing to stand behind once you say it. Only #2 depends on the 'other side', but you at least sharpen the contrast if they balk, and you can -- and should -- go into states and districts of the key "balkers" and campaign against them.
So, please, just explain. You have a household of strong supporters here, and the bulk of the American people who want you to succeed... waiting.
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