At this point it seems obvious that President Obama has no intention of passing his “jobs bill.” First, he announced that the $447 billion bill would be paid for with $467 billion in mostly permanent tax hikes on high earners. Not only is such a plan politically laughable, given Republican control of the House, it’s economically backward. Within the administration’s own Keynesian models, raising taxes during a recession is a bad idea.
Second, the administration is now insisting that individual measures in the bill can’t be passed separately. The bill has to be taken as a whole. “We’re not in a negotiation to break up the package. It’s not an a la carte menu,” David Axelrod said this morning. Even though Obama thinks every part of the bill would help the economy, he won’t allow Republicans to pass any one measure they also support without also voting on the other provisions. In other words, he’s saying, “take it or leave it…and please please leave it.”
Obama’s goal is to get Republicans on record as rejecting or blocking a “jobs bill” made up mostly of tax cuts and opposing tax hikes on various unsympathetic groups. That would give Obama, a little more than a year out from the election, the chance to campaign on the message that Republicans refused to cut your taxes because they were sheltering tax breaks for oil companies, millionaires and billionaires, and so on.
But this is probably another case of Obama being too clever by half. It might give him a good talking point in the short run. The ongoing turmoil caused by the recession, though, is the far greater challenge facing his reelection campaign. Republican leadership has signaled some willingness to work with him on parts of his jobs plan, and some of them would help accelerate the economic recovery, or at least provide some relief for people struggling to make ends meet — for instance, the payroll tax cut provisions. In lieu of major, broad-based tax reform, there is plenty in the bill that could aid real economic growth. Yet Obama seems content to place his trust in political maneuvering and the ability of his campaign organization to communicate a fairly convoluted message that impugns Republicans.