Is it Politics

New York Sen. Charles Schumer spoke today at the Economic Policy Institute about the need for Congress and the White House-Republican budget deficit talks to focus on America’s most important issue of the day: job creation.

“The view that Congress should focus on jobs and deficit reduction is coming back into vogue,” said Schumer, and that “the rigid get-rid-of government mantra has crashed into things people like.”

Schumer’s theme was that jobs creation is the most important issue facing Americans today. Jobs come first, according to Schumer, and deficit reduction will follow in the long run.

Echoing the frustration that many Americans are feeling as the economy slugs to recovery and Republicans filibuster economic progress, Schumer refuses to believe that “the same country which built the interstate highway system and invented the Internet, the cell phone and GPS will now abandon the 14 million Americans who are looking for a job and put the economic future of an entire generation of young people at risk, because this Congress can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.”

The time has finally come, as shown in the recent election in New York’s 26th district where voters said to the Republican Party “slow down.” People do not want to sacrifice Medicare for the sake of tax cuts for the wealthy and big business.

Democrats are willing to compromise to raise the debt ceiling but Schumer insisted that the talks should not be one-sided in favor of Tea Party concerns. Cuts in wasteful spending are important but he stated that there is no difference between wasteful spending in defense or any other domestic program. This is where, Schumer believes, Republicans are being hypocritical by calling for cuts but balking at cutting wasteful defense spending.

He stated that there should be three criteria for putting a comprehensive jobs agenda together. First, the agenda will focus on things that economists tell us will get “the best bang for the buck,” such as actively investing in job creation while avoiding deep immediate cuts, as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has suggested. Second, the agenda items must have the support of major stakeholders in the private sector to create a “strong and durable recovery.” Lastly, Schumer said the policies will have a history of attracting bipartisan support.

The senator went on to list some of the programs Democrats are willing to support in the spirit of preventing the economic collapse that would surely follow a failure to raise the debt ceiling. However, Republicans have now rejected actions they formerly advocated, such as payroll tax holiday or making permanent a research and development tax credit. Schumer believes that is because Republicans are willing to jeopardize our economic recovery with gamesmanship in order to be better situated for the 2012 election.

Throughout the speech Schumer went to great lengths to prove that Democrats were willing to compromise with the GOP. The Campaign for America’s Future is calling for a different approach, calling on the Democrats to back an approach that balances spending-cut proposals with substantial tax revenues on millionaires and billionaires to spur job creation and economic growth.

Making a substantial dent in current unemployment numbers requires that Democrats hold the line, compelling their colleagues across the aisle to display a willingness to negotiate. The New York senator was right to call out Republican flip-flopping, but he spent little time proposing thoroughly Democratic solutions to high unemployment or assuaging the very real fear among the middle-class that the U.S. may drop into a double-dip recession. You can encourage your senators and representatives to support a plan for deficit reduction that calls for “shared sacrifice” by the wealthy as well as the rest of America, by sending them this message.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear in October that his first priority is to limit President Obama to one term. Republicans aren’t just opposing Obama anymore. By dragging their feet and ignoring any discussion of increasing tax revenue they are opposing economic recovery.


Nathan Birnbaum contributed to this post.

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