In the wake of an anemic jobs report that his Republican challengers are laying at his feet, President Obama could rightly respond that if he could have signed into law a jobs plan along the lines of what the House Progressive Caucus has proposed for the past two years, we would likely see 2 million more people employed today, and unemployment would be closer to 7 percent rather than above 8 percent.
Since the beginning of the year I have been keeping a "jobs deficit" chart tracking our progress—or more accurately, our lack of progress—toward closing the unemployment chasm left by the 2008 financial crash. The target is 5 percent unemployment by the end of 2014, an aggressive but not unrealistic target if we had the political will to make the decisions needed to drive unemployment down quickly.
With today's jobs report, the country crossed the 2 million mark of how far behind we've fallen from the goal since the beginning of the year.
| Total net
| Jobs surplus/
It did not have to be this way, and that is the message that President Obama should be relentlessly hammering as he campaigns today and through the weekend. As Dave Johnson points out in his post earlier today, he sent to Congress the American Jobs Act, a plan that Macroeconomic Advisers LLC estimated would create 1.3 million jobs in 2012 and another 800,000 in 2013.
That bill was filibustered by a united Republican minority in the Senate; none would cast one of the 60 votes needed to allow the legislation to go forward to full debate and an up-or-down vote. And House Republicans have kept a companion bill from even reaching the floor in that body.
Of even greater impact would have been the jobs proposals in the Progressive Caucus' "People's Budget" in 2011 and "Budget for All" in 2012. Both included proposals to spend well over $1 trillion on a broad range of job-creation initiatives, ranging from support to state and local governments to prevent layoffs of teachers and first responders to funding for high-speed rail, support for high-speed broadband and investment in clean energy initiatives. Those proposals would have had particular effect in the areas of the job market that show up as week in the latest jobs report: construction (virtually no new jobs in the past two months and up only 17,000 in the past year), manufacturing (down 15,000 in August and only up 189,000 in the past year) and state and local government (down 123,000 in the past year).
Conservatives would have groused over the short-term impact on the deficit, but the reality is that the problems created by long-term unemployment are a far more serious immediate problem than the deficit, which the market continues to be willing to finance at record-low interest rates.
Today in The Huffington Post PIMCO chief executive Mohamed A. El-Erian underscored that point. With the three-month average of net job creation falling below 100,000 a month, worker earnings stagnating, people falling out of the labor force and the number of long-term unemployed standing at 5 million, "all this calls—very loudly and persistently—for a comprehensive policy response out of Washington, D.C.— along the lines that President Obama proposed to Congress last year."
President Obama has a strong case to make, and he should. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is implicitly tied to the congressional Republican agenda of obstruction and obfuscation on jobs. In fact, his vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, was a key architect of that agenda. As Obama said during his speech at the Democratic National Convention, the Romney/Ryan prescription to the jobs crisis is "take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning."
As we've seen for the past decade, that's not even a placebo. That's made the economy sicker. While Republicans perpetuate the lie that President Obama's policies are responsible for today's jobs emergency, the president could force Republicans, and frankly some Democrats, to explain to the American people why they continue to stand in the way of policies that would have added as many of 2 million new jobs this year.