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Rob Horowitz: Obama Jobs Speech Resets the Table

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress this past Thursday provided a needed jump-start to what promises to be an all-out Fall effort to adopt his job creation and long-term debt reduction proposals.

The specific proposals outlined in the speech were selected and framed to appeal to a broad majority of Americans. Just as important, Obama directly challenged Congress—which is far more unpopular than he is—to adopt his plan or risk being perceived as obstructionists playing partisan politics.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, I believe that a good part of Obama’s American Jobs Act will become law. The initial conciliatory positioning of Speaker Boehner(R-OH) and Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA) is telling. Recent polling shows their majority is now in some jeopardy. The House Republicans took a bigger hit than Obama from the extended debt ceiling debate and they know it.

Hard To Just Say No

As a result, it will be hard for the House Republicans to just say "No". Further, Obama has chosen specific policy prescriptions that are difficult for Republicans to oppose. One example is Obama’s expanded payroll tax reduction which calls for reducing payroll taxes for small businesses and individuals.

Further, the plan is receiving good reviews from private economists. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics and a former McCain advisor, estimates that all together the proposals in the $447 billion plan would create 1.9 million jobs and cause unemployment to drop by a percentage point.

In the next week or so, Obama will unveil his specific proposals for long-term debt reduction and reassure voters that the American Jobs Act will be paid for. As he repeated on Thursday night and indicated at several points during the debt ceiling negotiations, his plan will include modest adjustments in entitlement spending as well as closing tax loopholes for the wealthy.

A New Approach

President Obama realizes that job creation and debt reduction are not mutually exclusive. Both problems must be addressed to put the economy back on sound footing as well as to generate the support in the electorate needed to move policies to adoption.

In putting forward very specific proposals that will be turned into Administration-backed legislation, Obama departs from his previous approach of outlining general principles in public and working behind the scenes with Congress to get legislation adopted—the approach used on both the health care legislation and the debt ceiling.

While that strategy yielded some important legislative accomplishments, it left the American people somewhat confused about where the President really stands. The approach now being employed is much better suited to today’s political environment where one House of Congress is controlled by a strong Republican opposition. Communicating directly to voters and over the heads of Congress is now the key to success.

Sufficient repetition of the jobs and debt reduction messages so that they settle in with voters is essential. President Obama’s stops in both Boehner and Cantor’ s districts just after the speech are a sign that the White House recognizes the importance of a sustained campaign to get these proposals adopted. Now, the task will be to keep hammering home these messages despite the inevitable distractions and new issues that will continue to arise and are inherent in the Presidency.

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