--The purpose of conservatism is to stand athwart history"--William F. Buckley, Jr.
No one should have any illusions that the Republicans have a slightest interest in helping the American economy recover. Their interest is solely in gaining power, and consolidating the rule of the rich. In order for a meaningful jobs plan to have a prayer of passing, therefore, strategic considerations are paramount.
There are 3 key politically strategic ingredients to have a chance of success.
First, it must be bold. Not only will half-way measures not work very well, they will not ignite the support for steps 2 and 3 that will be necessary to get it passed.
Bold means big in its impact. Bold also means direct. That is, there can be no room for estimating jobs that will be created. The jobs must be guaranteed, with the government the employer if necessary. That way, no one can credibly say, "it won't work to create 4 million jobs."
I have proposed a modern WPA, funded by a 0.5% financial activities (FAT) tax plus expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the upper bracket, to hire, directly, 4 million workers for 4 years. That is big, bold, and the jobs are guaranteed. If those jobs become private sector, because private companies hire the workers themselves, so be it. At least they are guaranteed.
Moreover, since the "job-creators" the Republicans argue they so desperately need to protect are clearly not hiring 4 million people, claims that "taxing the rich like this will kill jobs" will fall flat on their collective faces. They will retreat, therefore, to fears of "big government." that can be effectively addressed by a) pointing out the obvious that ONLY government embarks on these very long-term investments; and b) listing the projects Republicans asked for, in writing, from the stimulus funds and other federal agencies.
The jobs would be to rebuild roads, bridges, schools, water pipes, sewers, rail, upgrade the electric grid, and retrofit buildings to save energy. No one can credibly say that those projects will not pay dividends long into the future. No one can credibly say that they do not need doing. No one can credibly state that private enterprise has ever funded these projects in the last 75 years or more.
In economic terms, what this does is transform excess or idle capital that is, today, doing nothing, and invest it in our shared future.
This is not to suggest that the above proposal is the only way to go. But, any proposal needs to meet the tests of bold and guaranteeing large number of jobs through direct hiring.
Second, there needs to be a big march on Washington supporting the legislation. Telephoning Congress, signing online petitions, is not enough. Very large numbers of real people need to show up. Labor is best suited to organize it, although other groups will certainly help.
There were about 2 million people in DC for the president's inaugural. This march needs the same or more if it is to be effective.
The middle class has just as much right to get government to work for its interests as the right-wing has successfully manipulated government to work for the interests of the rich. The marchers must demand, therefore, not ask that the legislation guaranteeing those jobs be passed. In addition to appearing on the mall, the marchers should stream into the halls and offices of Congress.
Third, in order to guarantee this an up-or-down vote in Congress, it should be made part of the SuperCongress's recommendation to cut the deficit. There is nothing that I read in the so-called debt ceiling bill, in which John Boehner got 98% of what he wanted, that said that the entire recommendation of the SuperCongress had to be done all in one piece. All it said is that it must complete its work by November 23, 2011.
No one denies that increasing jobs and growth will decrease the deficit. Thus, the SuperCongress is a highly proper and appropriate vehicle through which to propose this legislation. Although paying for it by taxes will raise barriers to its passage, it also enables it to fit within the deficit-reducing mandate of the SuperCongress. If not those taxes, then hiring more IRS agents to collect part of the $350B in annual tax receipts, due but not paid, might substitute.
Will all this work to get a meaningful bill passed? Probably not. But, unless it is bold, there will be no massive march to support it. And, then Washington DC will continue to believe that it can thwart the peoples' will and ignore their needs with impunity.
Yesterday, I spoke with striking Communications Workers of America members who were on a picket line. I asked them if they would join such a march. They almost could not wait to board a bus, but they will not do it for something piddling.
A bold proposal needs bold actions and bold messaging to support it. Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) just entered the race for the Republican Presidential nomination with his stated goal of "working every day to make the federal government inconsequential" in peoples' lives.
Democrats, and others, who believe that government (which is, unlike Mitt's corporations, really of the people, by the people and for the people) should perform critical functions for the good of all, need to engage Perry's irrelevancy proposition directly and forcibly. The argument is not that government should do everything, any more than the private sector can do everything, but that there are critical functions -- one of which is to kick-start the economy after episodes like the disastrous Bush Administration that left it in shambles -- that government can uniquely perform.
Getting America working again is a good place to start. [And, the last thing the White House should do is allow Rick Perry to brand himself with that phrase.]