If President Obama’s speech were only about economics, its proposals would pass easily in both chambers of Congress. Though bigger and bolder than expected, it is still at its core a common-sense mix of ideas that both Democrats and Republicans have supported. The costliest portion, an extension of payroll tax relief for workers, has been sweetened to include a reduction of the tax for employers as well, something Republicans should find hard to resist.
For the 14 million Americans out of work, and the millions more worrying if they could be next, it is high time that the president finally stood up and challenged Congress to act.
“Pass it now… pass it right now,” is an effective refrain that Obama used to introduce the various elements of the American Jobs Act before a remarkably warm and receptive Congress. That doesn’t mean Republicans have suddenly had a change of heart, but it does mean they are feeling the heat from a public that thinks lawmakers ought to do more than throw spitballs at each other.
Obama finally laid out a clear and compelling case for government that he sounds prepared to fight for. He urged Congress to think what life would be like if their predecessors had succeeded in voting down Social Security or Medicare or funding for the Internet. If Obama watched the Republican debate the previous evening, one of his opponents, Mitt Romney, had the best line of the evening. The president, he said, is “not a bad guy, he just doesn’t have a clue what to do about the economy.”
Obama showed Thursday night he has a way forward, and when Republicans stayed glued to their seats when he talked about rebuilding schools, they were the ones who looked clueless.
Obama hits the road Friday to build support for his jobs plan, and to find out if he can rally the country around his ideas, and his reelection.