Political Animal


August 31, 2011 12:35 PM Obama to go big with jobs agenda

By Steve Benen

When it comes to President Obama’s new economic plan, to be unveiled next week, the three main questions are pretty straightforward: (1) what’s in it; (2) how much good will it do; and (3) what will Congress do to it.

But I’ve been curious about one other thing: where’s he going to deliver it?

The president has some options here. He could go with another White House address, maybe from the Oval Office. He could speak at a university or maybe a small business that benefited from the Recovery Act. I thought he might go with a town-hall meeting in a key swing state.

The location of the speech would send a signal about what to expect from the speech, and the significance the White House places in the speech. This announcement, then, tells us quite a bit.

President Obama has asked for a joint session of Congress on Sept. 7 to present his plan for jobs.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, Obama said it is his intention to “lay out a series of bipartisan proposals that the Congress can take immediately to continue to rebuild the American economy.”

The letter to congressional leaders read as follows:

“Our Nation faces unprecedented economic challenges, and millions of hardworking Americans continue to look for jobs. As I have traveled across our country this summer and spoken with our fellow Americans, I have heard a consistent message: Washington needs to put aside politics and start making decisions based on what is best for our country and not what is best for each of our parties in order to grow the economy and create jobs. We must answer this call.

“Therefore, I respectfully request the opportunity to address a Joint Session of Congress on September 7, 2011, at 8:00 p.m. It is my intention to lay out a series of bipartisan proposals that the Congress can take immediately to continue to rebuild the American economy by strengthening small businesses, helping Americans get back to work, and putting more money in the paychecks of the Middle Class and working Americans, while still reducing our deficit and getting our fiscal house in order. It is our responsibility to find bipartisan solutions to help grow our economy, and if we are willing to put country before party, I am confident we can do just that. Thank you for your consideration.”

As settings go, this is in the swing-for-the-fences category. Presidential speeches to joint sessions of Congress are not for routine issues. And if Obama intended to aim low with his plan, throwing out a few tax credits and warmed-over ideas, he would not pick this venue*.

Put another way, major addresses before a joint session is no place for a timid economic plan. With that in mind, the president appears ready to go big, and I’m glad.

In the larger political context, it’s probably worth noting that a Republican presidential debate is scheduled for the same evening. I rather doubt the White House cared, but it should offer an interesting contrast.

* fixed

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • mr.irony on August 31, 2011 12:38 PM:

    GOP response: ...NO!!...OUTRAGE!!....ARMAGEDDON!!!

  • c u n d gulag on August 31, 2011 12:43 PM:

    Wow, wow, wow!

    Maybe this IS major!!!

    Something tells me there'll be no bipartisany sitting next to one-another BS in this one, like they did after Congresswoman Giffords' shooting.

    I have the over/under on a Republican yelling something out at, oh, let's say 12 minutes into Obama's speech.

    Any takers?

  • Lucia on August 31, 2011 12:45 PM:

    Um... he would not pick this venue?

  • kama on August 31, 2011 12:50 PM:

    Keep in mind that Obama has burned us before with his great expectations. Unless the leopard has changed his spots, I expect this to be a big nothing.

    Captcha recalls the 2001 ockemen. That was a great year for them.

  • James on August 31, 2011 12:53 PM:

    I'm an Obama fan, but I wouldn't get your hopes up. It may or not be a big proposal, but let's face it, the chance of it getting through congress is zero. The Republicans will not stand for anything that will help the economy in an election year.

  • dricey on August 31, 2011 12:54 PM:

    My fingers are crossed that you're right, Steve. I've longed for boldness from Obama for a long time. Then, of course, he'll have to fight for it, knowing that the GOP will block him but knowing also that it will draw sharp contrasts between an administration that cares about the country and an opposition that doesn't. Then, finally and most crucially, he'll have to resist his visceral impulse to compromise with that opposition. It was disheartening to listen to his speeches during the debt ceiling fight, talking right down to the end about the need for the wealthy to sacrifice, too, and then see that, well, in the nd, not so much. He needs to stick to his guns, for our sake. That'll help his leadership numbers.

  • Daniel Kim on August 31, 2011 12:54 PM:

    @Lucia: Good catch. It was confusing to read it the way it's written. I'm sure Steve meant to say that Obama'd have picked a different venue if he intended to make some wimpy, half-assed proposal.

    Personally, I hope he rakes congressional Republicans over hot coals, and makes a plea to the people to tie up the phone lines again when it comes time to vote. If Obama can sustain the testosterone, he still has a chance to re-capture the interest and energy of his base constituency.

    Certainly, the past months have given the Democratic party a lot of ammo, what with tax increases to the working class, witholding funds for disaster relief and the near-default. I may dare to hope.

    CAPTCHA recommends being ready for a rainy day, though, and says to "yersave swampfish", just in case.

  • bruce k on August 31, 2011 12:56 PM:

    The venue might hint at "going big", but if his proposals are consistent with the language in his letter to Congress requesting the session, it will be pretty small.

  • Anon on August 31, 2011 12:56 PM:

    Oof. If his address is competing with the GOP debates this is probably going to blow up. The Republicans will say he's trying to stifle them and distract from their candidates, the media will echo, and by the time the speech happens the issue will be more about his grave offense to the GOP than it will be about his jobs agenda. Plus the candidates' response in the debates to his speech will probably gain more press than his actual speech.

  • DAY on August 31, 2011 12:56 PM:

    Curses! Foiled again by the rapier wit and blinding keyboard prowess of Teh Gulag!

    I was also going to suggest an Over/Under pool, as to the first shout of "YOU LIE".
    Put me down at four minutes. . .

  • internet tough guy on August 31, 2011 1:01 PM:

    What are the odds that Cantor Boner says NOPE?

    I say 3-1.

  • martin on August 31, 2011 1:01 PM:

    I look forward to the rousing ovation after he proposes Patent Reform!

    It will also be fun to watch on FoxNews as the Repub debate gets the main screen and the Presidential address is relegated to being silently shown in the lower left corner of the screen.

    Mr Captcha says iciality included

  • stormskies on August 31, 2011 1:02 PM:

    In the larger political context, itís probably worth noting that a Republican presidential debate is scheduled for the same evening.


    And guess who the 'moderators' are for this ? None other than the corporate used condoms called Brian Williams and John Harris. Repiglicans both .....

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 31, 2011 1:05 PM:

    Watch the networks set aside time for "the Republican response."

  • Jjm on August 31, 2011 1:06 PM:

    He has already signaled that he will make big proposals that should be very popular with the public. He says he is throwing down the gauntlet to the GOP to take them up.

    Otherwise, and this is what he says, it will be a big campaign issue against the GOP for the 2012 races.

    Sounds smart to me.

    The problem is that the GOP is so ensconced in a DC culture that fawns over them, they won't realize what they actually need to do to win. They actually believe, polls to the contrary, that their positions are popular.

    The fact that they are only popular with their wealthy donors does not win elections for them, however.

  • OKDem on August 31, 2011 1:14 PM:

    I would say the Rethugs will object on the grounds that it is irreligious to disrupt a Good Hair Perry prayer meeting. But it is too likely my weak attempt at parody will be upstaged by Rethug unreality and they will say exactly that. And the Beltway pundits will complain it is uppity of the Black Guy to indispose the proper rulers of the United States of GOPer.

  • max on August 31, 2011 1:20 PM:

    But what can possibly pass both Houses of Congress?

  • Josef K on August 31, 2011 1:26 PM:

    Part of me expects little in major initiatives, even less in blod proposals (irregardless of prospects of passage).

    The other part recognizes there's seven days between now and then, and so plenty of time to 'hear' more trial balloons to be floated (and Republican heads to explode). If we're supremely lucky, it'll be plenty of time for Perry, Bachmann or Romney - or, godswilling, all three - to completely self-destruct.

    Then again, it all might be for naught if the Speaker and GOP leadership decline to call such a session. I've no idea if that's within their purview, but I put nothing past these clowns anymore.

  • stormskies on August 31, 2011 1:39 PM:

    DisgustedWithItAll on August 31, 2011 1:05 PM:

    Watch the networks set aside time for "the Republican response."


    And that is because the reject the 'fairness doctrine' .. except, of course, when it applies to them

  • bmcchgo on August 31, 2011 1:43 PM:

    I was hoping the President would GO BIG, knowing full well the GOP, Baggers and Fox News will resist with equal force. It should not matter if any of his proposals pass Congress - he will have the greatest attention of the American electorate to put out something sensible.

    The White House is smart that whatever his proposal, the details will be delivered directly to the American people without the filter of Fox News and CNN.

  • Brenna on August 31, 2011 1:51 PM:

    Josef K said: "Then again, it all might be for naught if the Speaker and GOP leadership decline to call such a session. I've no idea if that's within their purview, but I put nothing past these clowns anymore."

    That would certainly send a terrible message to the country that they don't take the massive unemployment situation seriously. I hope they do decline. So be it, right?

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 31, 2011 1:57 PM:

    If Boehner-Cantor decline, wouldn't it be just as efficacious to do it to the Senate alone. Is there some dumb procedural rules I don't know about?

  • Mimikatz on August 31, 2011 2:09 PM:

    He should go as big as he can stomach, and then oppose all the small-bore measures the GOP and Conservadems propose. They will pass the latter, there will be some improvement, and he will look bold for having tried. Anything he supports is DOA, so he has to use reverse psychology on them.

    Given how Cantor is being hammered for his stand on disaster relief, I don't think the GOP can afford to look lime it doesn't care about jobs. Pretty clever on O's part, bodes well.

  • VerySadOldVet on August 31, 2011 2:23 PM:

    At present, my level of confidence in The Obomination is somewhere between very low and zero!

    In all likelihood, this will be another repeat performance of either his stimulus or his debt ceiling negotiations. He will introduce a marginally acceptable plan and then turn it into crap to make the repukes happy.

    A little history of The Obomination's Stimulus Plan shows that he started with too little and then let copresidents Snowe and Collins and the DINOs turn it into paplum. The CBO scores the Stimulus as being worth between 1 and 2.9 million still existing jobs. That is after 60% of the stimulus was turned over to tax cuts and other crap that have the lowest stimulating effects.

    If The Obomination has gotten a stimulus of the same (undersized) amount and it had all been in the historically most effective ways of stimulating the economy, there would probably be another 4-6 million persons in jobs today!

    If The Obomination's Jobs Plan includes tax credits for employers that is strike one. Tax credits for employers to hire people when what the flipping employers need is more demand for their products or services???

    If The Obomination's Jobs Plan includes tax credits or funding for renovations of corporately owned property that is strike two. Renovations of schools and public facilities can make some sense; providing funding to corporate entities is bullshit!!!

    If The Obomination's Jobs Plan includes the continuation of the Payroll Tax Cut for anyone earning more than $30K a year that is strike three! Up to $30K a year income earners are more likely to spend the money and stimulate the economy. Above that history has shown that money ends up being saved or used to pay down credit; neither of which have any meaningful stimulating effect on the economy.

    Today, I am in a really p1ssed off negative mood. I am the I.T. department for what used to be a 30 person CPA firm. Today, another senior accountant is being let go because of general business conditions have decreased the amount of work for the firm. After today, what was a 30 person firm 2 1/2 years ago will now be a 24 person firm! F*ck Obama.

    Demand for products and services is what the real job creators need, not tax credits to hire someone they won't hire because there is not enough work to be done!

    The Obomination is again going to be 5 days late and 50 dollars short in what he proposes. It is a f*cking shame that we do not have a progressive in the White House or even a Repuke-Lite like Obama, except with Balls!

    F*cking Craptcha - recycled 4 times to get something I thought I could decipher and turns out I could not!

  • POed Lib on August 31, 2011 2:32 PM:

    This proposal had better NOT have the "Green Card for all the foreign students" crap in it, or I and many other liberals will be EXTREMELY hostile. The current MYTH of the SHortage of STEM workers, which is a HUGE LIE, is being pushed by immigration attorneys and agents of foreign governments like Vivek Wahdwa. These "shortage shouters" are pushing for MORE GREEN CARDS and MORE H-1Bs. We need NONE. We need jobs for our own American college grads. Let the Indians go back to India.

  • Captain Haddock on August 31, 2011 2:53 PM:

    I think the scheduling was a bad call. No matter what he says all the coverage will be about him "upstaging the GOP debate, blah blah blah".

  • Trollop on August 31, 2011 3:12 PM:

    How big is the President going to go with a jobs agenda?!

    If the last 3 years have been any indicator?

    Seriously.. Coprorate Focused and Public Option(al)

  • Anonymous on August 31, 2011 3:32 PM:

    I think it's brilliant. Obama's going to present some no excellent proposals that should be passed right away, and he will do so without responding to the nutcase Republicans, and without their being able to respond to him. They will be saying nothing. Americans can make a clear distinction between them.

    I don't really expect anything real to come out of this, because nothing Obama says will move the Republicans to support him. But it is an opportunity to present a case for what needs to happen, and to show the country who stands for what.

    And I'm tired of naysayer "progressives" who are unable to appreciate the significant progress Obama has made, despite a dysfunctional, and now treasonous, Congress.