09/08/2011 06:55 pm ET Updated Nov 08, 2011

Straitjacketed Obama

Obama's jobs speech this evening has a foregone outcome. It is doomed to fail, because the only thing that can create new jobs is new government spending, and that has been made impossible by the deals that he has been compelled to make with Republicans. The law enacted as a result of the debt-ceiling-increase deal last month mandates $900 billion in cuts over 10 years. And the new super committee is meeting today to find cuts of -- how much? -- $1.2 trillion? And if they don't find those cuts, cuts will happen automatically. Economists have said repeatedly that to cut spending is to invite a double-dip recession. Yet that is what Republicans have demanded.

What is hard to figure is why they are not called on their hypocrisy. After all, they don't actually come out and admit that their intention is to make sure that the economy does not improve before November 2012 so that Obama will fail to win reelection. They pretend that they want the economy to recover. Put America back to work, they say.

How is it that simple economic lessons, learned first in the '30s, remain a matter for debate because one political party finds them anathema? Simple fundamental economic principles are all that are needed to explain why further constricting government spending is bound to make things worse. In a time of crisis, the government is the only institution able to fund large-scale projects to put people back to work and increase the pace of economic activity. Lowering interest rates virtually to zero has not done the trick.

But spending more is the one thing Obama cannot do, because of the deals House and Senate Republicans have forced on him, and because of a typically passive, somnolent media that does not have nerve enough to come out and call it like it is. Those Republicans -- Boehner, McConnell and the rest -- want only to defeat Obama. They care nothing for the unemployed. They just want to cut spending -- unless, that is, the spending comes in the form of more tax cuts, or extensions of tax cuts, the kind of spending that has been tried before as an economic stimulus strategy, and failed. They like that kind of spending just fine.