Cross-posted from Campaign For America's Future
Investors got some great news last Friday, even as the report for job seekers was far worse than expected. August job figures came in far below economists' expectations (which, even if reached, would have been insufficient to bring a swift end to our employment crisis.)
"The remarkably weak GDP growth in this recovery is consistent with the extraordinarily weak job growth," writes economist Dean Baker, who notes that "employment is performing far worse than in prior recoveries."
But the misery that has gripped the nation was not being shared on Wall Street, where the S&P 500 reached a record high for the second week in a row. No wonder 71 percent of millennials believe that our economic system is rigged in favor of the rich. They're paying attention.
Democrats should be telling the nation how they would create more and better jobs. Unfortunately, so far that doesn't seem to be the strategy. Their instinct seems to be to trumpet what's right about the economy instead. But that message won't resonate when economic conditions are so miserable for so many people -- especially the core voters that Democrats will need if they are to win in November.
Modesty, Meet Obstructionism
The leadership's instinct is easy enough to understand. Parties in power like to boast of their successes -- and with two out of three branches of government, Democrats are at least nominally in power. But Democratic economic proposals have lacked boldness and courage, while Republican obstructionism has rendered even modest proposals politically unfeasible. They should say more about that.
The American Jobs Act, which President Obama proposed in 2011, demonstrated both the modesty of Democratic proposals and the rigidity of Republican obstructionism. That proposal would have extended unemployment insurance, offered jobs training, and provided $132 billion in infrastructure and other job-creating programs.
Despite sky-high unemployment and under-employment, the bill was never expected to pass the Republican House. It didn't even get that far. It was shut down by a series of Republican-led filibusters in the Senate -- even though the Republicans were able to pass a $286.4 billion highway bill a few short years earlier. That 2005 GOP bill cost more than twice as much as the Jobs Act (much of it pork), and its passage occasioned some ribbon-cutting and congratulatory remarks between then-President George W. Bush and then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
"If we want people working in America," said Bush, "we got to make sure our highways and roads are modern." Congressional Republicans are determined to make sure President Obama never has the chance to utter a similar (if undoubtedly more grammatical) sentence.
Consider this: Obama proposed less than half the amount celebrated by Bush and Hastert, and even sweetened the deal with $253 billion in GOP-friendly tax credits -- more than was being offered for direct job creation in his bill. That's a pretty modest, Republican-friendly plan.
And yet, despite the national jobs emergency that had gripped the nation, his bill was never given a chance of succeeding. That's obstructionism at its most extreme, and it's now business as usual.
More Jobs = More Growth
Meanwhile, the evidence is in on the economy. We now know that:
1. The stimulus worked -- but it wasn't big enough.
2. Democrats offered modest proposals that diluted practical economic suggestions with unproven tax-cut ideas -- and even those were rejected.