Obama's jobs bill: Is it dead or more alive than ever?

The $447 billion jobs bill has become a wedge issue in the 2012 election.

Barack Obama’s dimming prospects for re-election just got worse, said Patricia Murphy in TheDailyBeast.com. The $447 billion jobs bill he proposed to ward off a double-dip recession hit a major roadblock this week when Senate Republicans—with the help of two Democratic defectors—blocked it from even coming to an up-or-down vote. The bill would impose a 5.6 percent surtax on annual income over $1 million and pump money into the stagnant economy through payroll tax cuts, infrastructure spending, and aid to save the jobs of teachers, police, and other public workers. The Republicans’ unified opposition meant the chances of passage were always slim. But the White House still sees the bill as a wedge issue in the 2012 election, offering hard proof that Obama is doing more to revive the economy than the “do-nothing” Republicans in Congress. Obama will now break his bill into pieces and resubmit them to both houses of Congress. If Republicans continue to block his proposals, he’ll frame the campaign as a choice between a party that’s trying to help the middle class and one that cares only about the rich.

That’s a smart political strategy, and it’s true, said Steve Benen in WashingtonMonthly.com. Leading economists predicted that the president’s plan would have added 1.9 million jobs, raised economic output by 2 percentage points, and lowered the unemployment rate to 8 percent. The bill included Republican-supported tax credits for business, an extension of the payroll tax, and other bipartisan proposals with wide voter support. So why have Republicans opposed it from the start? It will now be obvious to voters that the GOP is determined to keep the economy weak “for the express purpose of undermining the Obama presidency.”

This jobs bill deserves to die, said Peter Wehner in CommentaryMagazine.com. It’s a poorly conceived, politically motivated stink bomb designed to “turn Americans against one another and stoke up feelings of envy, grievances, and rage.” Democrats will now cynically use this vote as a centerpiece in the president’s re-election campaign. Yet on its merits the bill is nothing more than a second attempt at failed economic stimulus. Its central feature, a temporary payroll tax cut, was already tried, and it failed to produce jobs. Even worse, the spending would be financed with a permanent half-trillion dollar tax hike on wealthy job creators, further diminishing chances of an economic recovery. There are so many glaring problems with this flawed bill, said Steve Huntley in SunTimes.com, that “voters see it for what it is: politicking.”

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People like politicking for the right cause, said Jay Newton-Small in Time.com. Americans favor putting teachers and cops back to work. More than two thirds of them, including a majority of Republicans, favor taxing the rich to close the deficit, according to a new Bloomberg poll. For the Democrats, this confrontation over the jobs bill may prove to be “electoral gold.” Yet they will need to spend it wisely, said Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post. “Voters are despondent about the economy and fed up with politicians.” That’s especially true of independents, who helped elect Obama in 2008 but now strongly favor Romney, according to a recent Pew poll. The president may wish to run, Truman-like, against a hostile Congress. But to win re-election, he must convince those skeptical swing voters that his solutions to our fiscal problems are better than his opponent’s. Even if it’s true, that will “be a hard sell.”

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