Jonathan Cohn

Obama to Make Major Jobs Speech

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Yes, President Obama is going to make a serious push to do something about jobs. It’s going to begin right after Labor Day.

White House officials are telling reporters that Obama plans to give a major speech on the economy, right after the holiday weekend. In that speech, the officials are saying, Obama will propose a series of initiatives to bolster the economy and promote higher employment. According to an account from Ben Feller of the Associated Press,

The president's plan is likely to contain tax cuts, jobs-boosting infrastructure ideas and steps that would specifically help the long-term unemployed.

Interestingly, the White House is saying the ideas will be “new.” I’m not sure that’s entirely necessary, in the sense that the best thing for the economy right now would probably be some ideas we’ve tried before, like public works spending and aid to the states. But perhaps the White House has some new twists on these. And the media does have a fetish for new ideas over old, so perhaps it’s just as well.

During the speech Obama will also put forward a proposal for deficit reduction. And according to the AP it will call for more savings than the $1.5 trillion the super-committee must find. But officials are saying that employment and policies to boost it will be the primary focus of the address – and that Obama intends to spend the fall urging Congress to pass it.

Is this good news? I certainly think so. For the last few days an undercurrent of fatalism has developed in the media, on the theory that Obama has very little power to fix the economy given GOP intransigence. No doubt it will be difficult. But yesterday I noticed, amid the usual Republican e-mails attacking Obama as a big spender, a press release touting the GOP job creation agenda.

Their agenda don’t add up to much – mostly tax cuts for the wealthy, reduced regulation, and spending cuts that, at best, wouldn’t do much increase short-term growth and, at worst, might actually reduce it. But the fact that Republicans felt compelled to show that, yes, they had plans is telling: I think they were reacting, at least in part, to the speeches Obama has been giving on the subject.

I wouldn’t discount the possibility that Obama’s push for jobs will force even this Republican Congress to do something – and that, even if it’s less than he or you or I would want, it could actually put a decent number of people back to work. That’s certainly worth trying. And if the Republicans really won't pass anything? Then, at the very least, Americans will have a better idea of where the two parties really stand -- and what they really want.

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