Let’s get positive, and win

The American Jobs Act is the leading edge of the jobs struggle. It is the ground on which millions can be drawn into the fight to create jobs and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

The AFL-CIO is embracing and promoting it. Others will come on board too as the jobs campaign gathers momentum.

The Jobs Act, introduced by President Obama in a well-crafted and passionate address to a joint session of Congress, is not as far reaching as some other jobs proposals. The plans put forward by the Congressional Black Caucus, Progressive Caucus, AFL-CIO and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., are more ambitious, and we recognize that they contain more in-depth solutions. But the hard fact is that none of these stand a chance of congressional approval given the current balance of forces in Congress, and in the House in particular.

The president’s proposal does. The various provisions in the act appeal to a broad constituency, including political moderates in both parties.

Even for this plan the going will be tough. The Republicans, while initially making conciliatory noises, are determined not to give the president a positive record to run on. They figure a president with no accomplishments, especially in a period of crisis, will not be returned to office.

That such a posture will hurt millions of people who are already hurting is of no concern to them.

In fact, in their view, the worse that economic conditions are, the better are their chances of winning back the White House and Congress in 2012.

Irresponsible yes, cynical yes, even diabolical, but as a political calculus, it contains some truth. Unless the American people are convinced otherwise, they could easily blame the president for the economic mess when they go into the voting booth next year. Good policy positions and eloquent speeches are seldom enough to attract voters in a time of crisis.

The president, probably more than the rest of us, is certainly well of aware of this.

Thus he appears determined to take the initiative on the main economic policy questions facing the nation. It seems evident he is no longer willing to let Republicans frame the political agenda.

Indeed, his jobs speech two weeks ago – and his support for a special millionaires’ tax (the Buffet option) earlier this week – put the GOP leaders on their heels for the first time since 2010 when they regained control of the House.

We won’t like everything the president proposes, especially cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, and should mobilize to make sure such ideas are dropped. But at the same time that shouldn’t be an obstacle to getting behind the American Jobs Act and the millionaires’ tax in a full-blooded way.

The left should not set the perfect against the possible. It’s counterproductive. And let’s not “damn” Obama’s jobs and tax initiatives “with faint praise” – an approach that has been employed too often to no good effect.

A positive, robust grassroots campaign for Obama’s jobs and tax-the-rich measures will put the wind in the president’s sails, give people hope and improve the prospects of a people’s victory next year.

Photo via White House press service.


Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a long-time writer living in New York. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.