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Posted by on Dec 11, 2009 in Economy, Guest Contributor, Politics | 0 comments

Priorities and Midterms (Guest Voice)

Priorities and Midterms

by David Goodloe

“For all the attention the White House and Congress have given to health care and Afghanistan this fall, no problem poses a greater political threat to the Democrats in 2010 than joblessness and slow economic growth.”
Dan Balz
Washington Post

Are Barack Obama and the Democrats beginning to realize that unemployment could undermine their grandiose plans when the 2010 midterm elections are held?

Darned inconvenient, those unemployed Americans. And there are so many more of them now than there were in January when Obama took office.

But just about every time I ask a Democrat what is being done to encourage job creation (I say “just about every time” because I’m sure there must be some exceptions, although I can’t think of any), I get virtually the same response Dan Balz of the Washington Post got from Jennifer Crider, the communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

It was Bush’s fault, they say. He left so many problems that had to be addressed (in the New York Post, Michael Goodwin calls it a “whiny blame game”).

OK. But when does that second shoe drop? When do we hear about what the Democrats have been doing about unemployment? We’ve been hearing a lot about unemployment in recent days, but it’s really the first time Democrats have bothered to talk about it since the days of the stimulus — which was going to produce a whole bunch of jobs, remember?

(By the way, which party was in charge of Congress in the last two years of Bush’s presidency?)

Well, the patience of the unemployed has been stretched thinner than U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The unemployed may have no jobs, but they can still vote — and you can expect them to show up at the polls next November. Some may have jobs by then, but most of the unemployed — and the “under–employed,” to use the latest buzzword — have no reason to expect much change in their status. And that’s apt to make them a bit peckish.

In what is a time–honored tradition with American voters, it is likely that they will punish the party in power. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is anticipating significant gains for the GOP in 2010, which would be in keeping with historical tendencies. Of course, Democrats can make the case that Cheney is biased. But history is not.

Most unemployed Americans probably would be more tolerant if they felt the government had been trying to encourage job creation this year. They certainly had reason to expect that. Less than a month before the 2008 election, Obama told voters in Ohio, in a speech titled “A Rescue Plan for the Middle–Class,” that he would propose a $3,000 tax credit for existing companies for each full–time employee they added to their payrolls.

But “[t]he credit was never part of the stimulus legislation as far as we saw, and it was not included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which Obama signed into law on Feb. 17, 2009,” writes Angie Drobnic Holan for “Likewise, we see no indication that this idea might re–emerge.”

Reasonable people know the government can’t create jobs, but it can encourage job creation. The absence of such efforts this year makes the Democrats’ sudden interest in job creation justifiably suspect. Could it be that “The One” is nothing but another cynical politician, an opportunist who is pleasingly packaged and armed with a soothing vocabulary?

I know I’ve mentioned this tax credit proposal before, but no one has answered my question satisfactorily. Why was it dropped? If there were potential problems in the original proposal, why was no effort made to address them so a tax credit could be part of the stimulus package?

Why have we gone nearly all year with no tangible efforts — until now, when the invincibility and inevitability of Democrats is being challenged — to encourage job creation?

I don’t dispute the fact that there were a lot of things on Obama’s plate when he took office. What I have a problem with is his priorities. And I’m not the only one. William Galston writes about that in The New Republic.

“Good policy ideas are useless if the time is not right,” argues Galston. “In a democracy, leaders must focus — and be seen to focus — on the problems the public cares about the most. If the political agenda is not aligned with the public agenda, the likely result is frustration and anger. Conversely, if leaders work hard on the public’s problems, the public response is likely to be favorable, even if the results are not immediate.”

Affordable health care, for example, is important. I’m not denying that. But what is affordable when you’ve got no job?

“[T]he number one issue on the public’s mind is the sorry condition of the employment market,” Galston writes, “and the people want action to restart the great American jobs machine.”

Better late than never, I guess.

David Goodloe got his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in 1982, and his master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas in 1991. He publishes the thoughtful weblog Freedom Writing. This post is cross posted from his website.

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