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Boehner (R-OH) himself took a more nuanced approach, voicing his appreciation for the president’s effort to get the bill to Congress quickly. But he noted that the House won’t begin reviewing the various elements of the bill until its cost estimates are officially scored by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). “The record of the economic proposals enacted during the last Congress necessitates careful examination of the president’s latest plan as well as consideration of alternative measures that may more effectively support private-sector job creation,” Boehner said. “It is my hope that we will be able to work together to put in place the best ideas of both parties and help put Americans back to work.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, one of the president’s chief critics during the debt ceiling negotiations, was displeased by the president’s heavy-handedness. “It’s pass my bill all or nothing,” Cantor said of the president’s approach. “That’s just not the way things are done anywhere in Washington.”
Yet Washington is where the other battle with respect to the nation’s fiscal well-being will be playing itself out over the next couple of months. As part of the debt ceiling deal, a 12-member congressional panel must come up with $1.5 in savings by Thanksgiving. Given the partisan divide in Washington, such negotiations are already difficult. Yet during last Thursday’s speech, Mr. Obama made them sound anything but. “Tonight, I’m asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act,” he said, as if upping the target deficit reduction number by almost one-third will be relatively easy.
It won’t be. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who is on the record saying it is “indefensible” that some American corporations pay no taxes, accused the president of playing “pass the buck.” Panel member Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) accused the president of “abdicating his responsibility.” Committee co-chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) was even more direct. “This proposal would make the already-arduous challenge of finding bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction nearly impossible, removing our options for deficit reduction for a plan that won’t reduce the deficit by one penny,” he warned.
Despite this reality, the president yesterday reiterated his position that the bill “won’t add a dime to the deficit.” If that has a familiar ring, it’s because the president used the same phrase in reference to the healthcare bill in 2009. Excerpts from that same 2009 speech reveal other disturbing similarities to the president’s current jobs initiative:
We passed a two-year Recovery Act that meant an immediate tax cut for 95 percent of Americans and for small businesses. It extended unemployment insurance and health coverage for those who lost their jobs in this recession, and provided emergency assistance to the states to prevent even deeper layoffs of police, firefighters, teachers and other essential personnel…we now are investing in projects to repair and upgrade roads, bridges, ports, and water systems–and in schools and clean energy initiatives…They have saved and helped create jobs and have begun to put the brakes on this devastating recession.
Again, that was two years ago. For the record, less than two months after the healthcare bill was passed, the CBO recalculated the costs from “not one thin dime” added to the deficit, to an additional $115 billion in spending over ten years. And that calculation is based on the improbable idea that most businesses will continue to underwrite healthcare costs for their employees instead of taking the far more profitable route of dumping them in government-run exchanges. That far more likely development would raise the price tag of the healthcare bill by as much as $800 billion annually.
In reviewing what has come before, and the subsequent lack of economic recovery that has occurred as a result, it is almost surreal to witness the ongoing ideological rigidness of a president who insists on giving the country more of the same Keynesian-inspired economic “solutions” to the nation’s problems. Solutions that have been found conspicuously wanting. It is equally surreal, on the cusp of a double-dip recession, to see his enablers, most notably DNC head Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who contended that the “mantra that the Recovery [stimulus] Act did not work is such baloney,” as determined as the president to ignore fiscal reality.
The state of the economy, as opposed to the rather dubious assertions of both the president and Ms. Wasserman Schultz, speaks for itself. It is an economy which necessitates the president’s not-so-subtle strategy of painting Republicans as “obstructionists” if they don’t pass his plan “right away!” as Mr. Obama has reminded us innumerable times. In keeping with the president’s predilection for dividing Americans, the Democratic National Committee has broken down the impact of the American Jobs Act — for women, Latinos, African-Americans and low-income Americans. Four constituencies he undoubtedly hopes will bolster his chances for re-election in 2012.
The only thing likely to boost the president’s chances for re-election is a genuine recovery. How a smaller version of a previously ineffective stimulus plan gets us there is anyone’s guess.
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