President Obama’s reaction to the latest lousy employment figures was framed by New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes on Saturday’s front page as “New Urgency in the Battle for Stimulus.” Calmes has long insisted Obama’s first multi-billion dollar economic “stimulus” was a success and did so again:
Nonpartisan analysts and the Congressional Budget Office have credited the first stimulus package with helping to end the recession and keep unemployment from growing even higher than it did. They say the winding down of the federal government’s help this year has contributed to the economy’s stall.
But Republicans, who solidly opposed the original stimulus program, say it was a failure that only dug the country deeper into debt -- a stand that hardly suggests they will be receptive to such ideas now. That argument against big government helped Republicans win control of the House last November, and they have since forced Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats into repeated rounds of spending cuts.
While that was widely welcomed at first, given the nation’s mounting long-term debt, economists began to fret that the austerity measures in both the United States and Europe threatened to push the world into another recession. In an analysis this week, for example, the chief economist of OppenheimerFunds, Jerry A. Webman, cited “the counterproductive approach Congress and the administration are taking to fiscal policy.”
At least Calmes has belatedly admitted that Obama wants “tax increases” on those considered well-off. Previously she had used the euphemism “raising revenues.”
Mr. Obama hopes to change the balance with his speech to Congress. He will call for short-term job creation measures now -- to prevent a recession that would widen annual deficits through lost revenue and safety-net spending -- and for deficit reduction proposals, including spending cuts and tax increases for people with higher incomes, that would take effect after the economy regained full health.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican who has fostered a reputation as Mr. Obama’s nemesis, in a statement cited two proposals Mr. Obama was expected to make in his address -- for infrastructure spending and for job training for the long-term unemployed -- as “areas where we can work together to produce real results that will help job creators get people back to work.”
Some Republicans fear the party could bear the greater blame in 2012 if partisan obstruction against the president and political gridlock are seen as damaging to the economy. Through the August recess, unhappy constituents and liberal groups disrupted Republicans lawmakers’ meetings in their districts, demanding jobs bills. And while national polls show Mr. Obama’s ratings at record lows, the grades for Republicans and Congress are far worse.