President Obama began a 3-state bus tour today to Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. The tour is to promote his rural jobs initiative. At his first stop in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, the president spoke of the great struggle ahead. “I’m here to enlist you in a fight, we are here to fight for the future of our country,” he said.
Clearly, the president knows of what he speaks having just coming off of a bruising battle with Republicans on the deficit, a fight he arguably lost with agreements on budget cuts but no new revenues by taxing the rich.
With unemployment compensation due to run out, joblessness over 9 percent (16 percent including “discouraged” workers) and the economy teetering on the edge of a double dip recession, it will take a monumental fight back to persuade the powers that be to take the necessary measures to put the country back on track.
The president’s trip coincides with the beginning of such a movement. The U.S. House of Representatives Progressive Caucus and Black Caucus are holding public hearings across the country to demand federal action on jobs.
Last week, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill introduced the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act, that if enacted would put 2 million people to work in two years.
The New York Times has called on the president to join these efforts by presenting to Congress his own jobs plan. “It is past time for Mr. Obama to send a jobs plan to Congress that has popular appeal, one that he can use to try to shame Republicans.”
Significantly the Times came out in support of key parts of Schakowsky’s bill including Fix America’s Schools that would rebuild the nation’s public school infrastructure and its proposal to employ over one million young people in WPA type public works project.
As compared to these proposals, initiatives from the White House to extend unemployment benefits, seek patent reform and payroll tax cuts while important do not nearly go far enough.
It seems the president and his advisers hell bent on capturing the centrist independent vote may have jettisoned all talk of federal action to stimulate the economy.
At the very least, the White House is in midst of critical debate. In these cirmcumstances , grassroots pressure in support of the Schakowsky’s new bill from union halls, churches, City Councils, mayors and other public officials will help bring the necessary pressure to convince the president as John Conyers said recently “to get off his butt” and speak forcefully for jobs. “He’s the best speaker in the world” said Conyers.
According to Democratic strategist Donna Brazile Obama can do more than speak on the subject. Given the GOP’s legislative intransigence she says, “sometimes the president needs to take matters into his own hands.” This includes executive action: “President Obama needs to develop an economic action plan with his Cabinet that he can implement strictly through the exercise of executive power.”
Brazile continues “There’s a big toolbox available, and the president needs to get aggressive in using it.”
Executive action must be matched by peoples action. If the jobs fight – which certainly will extend beyond next year’s election – is to be successful, every pressure must be brought to break the GOP roadblock and get the country moving again.