Hitting Back at the Do-Nothing Chorus by David Atkins

Hitting Back at the Do-Nothing Chorus
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

No sooner does President Obama finally go on offense than we see another pathetic attempt by blue dogs and their ideologically aligned Senators to attempt to derail him:

President Obama anticipated Republican resistance to his jobs program, but he is now meeting increasing pushback from his own party. Many Congressional Democrats, smarting from the fallout over the 2009 stimulus bill, say there is little chance they will be able to support the bill as a single entity, citing an array of elements they cannot abide.

“I think the American people are very skeptical of big pieces of legislation,” Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, said in an interview Wednesday, joining a growing chorus of Democrats who prefer an à la carte version of the bill despite White House resistance to that approach. “For that reason alone I think we should break it up.”

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, has said he will put the bill on the legislative calendar but has declined to say when. He almost certainly will push the bill — which Mr. Obama urged Congress to pass “right now!” — until after his chamber’s recess at the end of the month; Mr. Reid has set votes on disaster aid, extensions for the Federal Aviation Administration and a short-term spending plan ahead of the jobs bill.

Republicans have focused their attack on the tax increases that would help pay for the spending components of the bill. But Democrats, as is their wont, are divided over their objections, which stem from Mr. Obama’s sinking popularity in polls, parochial concerns and the party’s chronic inability to unite around a legislative initiative, even in the face of Republican opposition.

Some are unhappy about the specific types of companies, particularly the oil industry, that would lose tax benefits. “I have said for months that I am not supporting a repeal of tax cuts for the oil industry unless there are other industries that contribute,” said Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana...

There are also Democrats, some of them senators up for election in 2012, who oppose the bill simply for its mental connection to the stimulus bill, which laid at least part of the foundation for the Republican takeover of the House in 2010.

“I have serious questions about the level of spending that President Obama proposed,” said Senator Joe Manchin III, a Democrat from West Virginia, in a statement issued right after Mr. Obama spoke to a joint session of Congress last week.

The "Democrats divided" storyline also contains a good old-fashioned hippie-punch at "shrieking" progressive DiFazio:

A small but vocal group dislikes the payroll tax cuts for employees and small businesses. “I have been very unequivocal,” said Representative Peter A. DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon. “No more tax cuts.”

His voice rising to a near shriek, he added: “We have the economy that tax cuts give us. And it’s pretty pathetic, isn’t it? The president is in a box.”

In many ways, this is a mess of the Administration's own creation. President Obama has chosen to align himself ideologically with the centrists and has given them undue power and influence over policy time and time again, including during the healthcare fight and the deficit reduction fight. So it's a bigger story than it should be when the Mary Landrieus of the world push back against him in the press on behalf of her oil company executive overlords. A story that should be good for an eye-rolling laugh in the same way as when Collins and Snowe disagree with Boehner, all of a sudden becomes some sort of serious intra-party fracture.

Also, the President has put himself in this bind by underselling the positive effects of the stimulus last year, and by making the stimulus over-laden with tax cuts in the first place.

Most importantly, the President put himself in this bind by giving credibility to the deficit hawks for the last year and a half. It's very difficult to spend all one's time saying the deficit is the nation's biggest challenge while hinting at cutting social security, and then turn around and say that we need to cut taxes and increase domestic spending on jobs. It's schizophrenic and its confuses voters, which in turn makes legislators in purple states and districts queasy.

That said, John Cole fairly accurately summed up the politics of the jobs fight a while back:

In the long term, assuming a plan gets through the House (it won’t), then we get to go through our usual drama of the blue dogs from Red States (Manchin, Nelson, Landrieu, McCaskill, etc.), Lieberman just so he can continue to be the world’s preeminent douchenozzle, and some others I am sure I am missing. They’ll cockblock it on the Senate side, moaning about the program being a deficit buster while conveniently ignoring the fact that each one of them represents a welfare state sucking at the federal teat. Finally, at the 11th hour, Snowe and Collins will swoop in and offer tax cuts for the ultra-rich as a sweetener and they will support it. At this point, Bernie Sanders or whatever progressive hero of the moment will claim he can’t support anything with tax cuts for the rich in it. This will bring things to a standstill for a couple more weeks until another shitty jobs report comes out, and the Senate, acting in the fierce urgency of when-the-fuck-ever will pass some piece of shit that is too small, unfocussed, and does nothing other than provide the left with another opportunity to fracture and start flinging shit at each other. Republicans will have spent the entire time using procedural tricks to slow things down while having Frank Luntz work on the framing of the issue so that by the time it is about to hit the President’s desk, they will already have a cute name, the talking points will be distributed, and we’ll all be hearing about the new “Porkulus” or “Obamacare” or whatever the fuck childish name they come up with. In three months time, when employment hasn’t picked up because we are actually in the same god damned depression we’ve been in since 2007, Rick Perry can claim that Keynesian ideology has once again been disproven. Because everyone hates the bill, Friedman, Brooks, and other members of the Centrist jihad will claim this as proof that the bill is great.

I think his characterization of progressives in this fight is deeply unfair. I would remind John that progressives, even Dennis Kucinich, did the right thing by voting for ACA in the end. There's nothing wrong with progressives using what little leverage we have to put our thumb on the scales for the middle-class insofar as possible, given all the inducements of corporate cash everywhere else. I would also ask John why Obama thinks using the bully pulpit to push the jobs bill is a good idea, if the bully pulpit is as useless as he often claims. But overall, his big picture of the these fights go is fairly accurate, especially here.

In the end, the jobs bill is unlikely to pass as a single entity, unless it's horribly watered down. The typical Obama Administration reaction to that would be to water it down to the point where the President thinks it might pass--at which point the GOP would use that dramatically weakened negotiating point to move the goalposts even farther to the right. Then, after two weeks of Fox News drumbeats, the useless blue dogs would shift to the right with them.

So it's heartening to see that the Obama Administration is going out on the road to push this bill anyway. Even though it likely won't pass. That's a good thing. Traditional analysis says that flogging a bill that ends up failing would make the President look weak. But in today's political environment, that's just not the case.

If the President moves forward, uses the pulpit to push the bill, shows anger at the do-nothing chorus in both parties that refuses to address the issue, and then reluctantly states that he is going to go after each item piecemeal due to the recalcitrance of the Republicans and even some Democrats, the President will gain support, not lose it. Congress is deeply unpopular, and what the people want is to know who is fighting for their values, and who isn't.

Even if the President doesn't get his jobs bill, fighting for it is the right thing to do. Let the do-nothing GOP and Blue Dog chorus whine and wail all they want: their intransigence will weaken the bill anyway and everyone paying close attention knows it. They might as well take a political hit for doing so while they're at it, and the President might as well get credit for being a populist champion who at least wants to create jobs, even if Congress won't let him.