Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images
Protesters shout slogans while holding banners on Oct. 3, 2011 in Los Angeles.
Protesters shout slogans while holding banners on Oct. 3, 2011 in Los Angeles. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images
George Zornick is a writer for The Nation.
President Obama's jobs bill, as written, died a predictable death in the Senate last night. Democrats were able to muster fifty-one votes for passage, but that's well short of the sixty needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.
The New York Times called the vote both a "major" and "significant" setback for Obama in this morning's edition, but in reality this was to be expected from the outset. No amount of press conferences, stump speeches or Congressional addresses would realistically advance the American Jobs Act past Mitch McConnell's iron grip on his forty-nine-member caucus, which can filibuster the bill into oblivion. And even if it somehow passed the Senate, the Tea Party–dominated House would never touch the bill.
So now comes phase two: beating up Republicans for standing in the way of job-creating legislation while using that pressure to hopefully at least get parts of the bill passed.
White House Communications Director Dan Pfieffer tweeted a picture of the Cincinnati Enquirer's front page this morning, which features a blaring headline above the fold: "GOP kills jobs package." Headlines like that in swing states like Ohio must make the GOP nervous, and the administration doesn't plan to let up. Greg Sargent obtained White House talking points that seem to plot a strategy that will directly blame Republicans for intentionally harming the economy in order to hurt Democrats and win elections.
Meanwhile, legislators will try to pass things both parties might agree upon. Some great ideas may still get through, though they would have to be attached to odious compromises. Other areas of mutual agreement are just plain bad.
Senator Chuck Schumer has put forth the most interesting idea so far: he wants to get the infrastructure bank idea through by coupling it with the GOP-favored overseas profit tax holiday. A national infrastructure bank could boost construction and employ thousands of workers, while enhancing the country's roads and bridges. It already has a Republican co-sponsor in the Senate.
On the other hand, I wrote about this tax holiday last week—it's a massive giveaway to multinational corporations without much job-creating potential. They could bring back overseas profits at low or no taxation, which is a huge boon for them, but not anybody else. The last time this happened, in 2004, a vast majority of the money brought back to America went right to enriching shareholders and executives. Democrats would have to accept that in order to get the infrastructure bank.
Elsewhere, the House might take up a measure to provide job-training funds to veterans. And of course, there are the trade deals being pushed by both the administration and Republicans.
Some of these ideas are worthwhile, while others—like the trade deals—might actually cost the country jobs. In the end, though, it's all biting at the edges of a massive problem—even if the entire jobs bill was passed as written, most economists agree that it, while helpful, wouldn't be enough to push the economy out of recession.
Maybe the White House's political strategy will work, but that's likely not of paramount concern to millions of unemployed Americans. Obama pointedly noted in his speech that the unemployed "don't have the luxury of waiting fourteen months" for action. But it looks like they'll have to stand by that long—at the very least.