Conservatives in Congress and their echo chamber have backed President Obama, and the American people, into a dangerous corner. Private sector job creation is desperately needed for our national recovery and to begin rebuilding the economic security of our people. Yet for a mix of political and ideological reasons, conservatives are blocking two of the critical steps necessary to achieve that goal: federal investment in private sector job creation and increased tax contributions from the wealthiest and most privileged Americans. Both are needed in order to get Americans back to work and grow the economy while beginning to reduce the deficit.
The President, however, still has some cards to play. His constitutional power includes the ability to expend existing federal resources in ways that best meet our national challenges, while calling on Congress to do the same. Specifically, the President should issue an executive order directing federal agencies to prioritize job creation in transportation, housing, and other programs already funded by Congress. He should focus those efforts on states and communities with the highest unemployment rates, and through the lens of equal opportunity. And he should separately urge Congress to prioritize employment in pending legislation like the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act that both parties agree must be passed soon. As I’ve recommended before, federal agencies should begin using an Opportunity Impact Statement and requiring Opportunity Action Plans to ensure that federal funds are used most effectively to create greater and more equal opportunity.
These tools should be used to amplify the kind of strategies proposed by the President’s jobs council, led by CEOs like American Express’s Kenneth Chenault, who have called for measures to cut red tape, provide more loans, invest in energy efficiency and attract more tourists to the United States, among other things.
These efforts, most of which the President can take on his own, should be part of a broader narrative on what government can and cannot do to spur private job growth, and why doing all it can right now is crucial to getting our country on the right track.