By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
The top three issues for the American people are jobs, jobs and jobs. And so President Obama is giving a major economic speech tomorrow at the Brookings Institution here in Washington. According to the AP, Americans' concerns over the jobless rate—still above 10 percent nationally—are bringing down his approval ratings, threatening Democrats in the midterm elections, and rightfully causing lawmakers to hesitate when it comes to enacting the rest of his agenda. It's hard to vote in favor of, say, a new "war surtax" to pay for the Afghanistan war (as House Appropriations Chair David Obey has suggested) when so many folks may not be paying their taxes in the first place because they're unemployed.
This speech is a golden opportunity for the president to spell out exactly what he wants from Congress, and to demand fast action. The president might consider taking a page from FDR's first Inaugural Address, when President Roosevelt threatened to invoke "broad Executive power" under the Constitution and go outside of the normal legislative channels because of "unprecedented demand and the need for undelayed action." President Obama might consider making a similar threat: He simply cannot afford to defer to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and David Obey as he did with the pork-laden stimulus bill, or to wait for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to come up with a healthcare reform package, as he has for the better part of a year. It wouldn't be a bad thing politically for him to separate himself from Pelosi and Reid and take the helm, if it means getting more Americans back to work.
Every job lost in America means a family in crisis. There are too many families in crisis to allow the Democrats in Congress to take the lead on this. The president needs to show us he's decisive and can act quickly on an important issue.