Tonight, Obama began his reelection campaign, aiming directly at the problem children, the Republican Party. That may sound like political par-for-the-course stuff, but for Obama it isn't. To me, he sounded rather done with the preposterous business of bipartisanship, at least with these particular boys and girls. No more. He aimed at the GOP's intransigence, its tedious hypocrisy, its do-nothingness and its deliberate defeatism. Obama cajoled and threatened. He essentially demanded all or nothing. He contrasted. He led.
So as far as things passing Congress, it's not going to be a good speech or public pressure that would do it; it would be finding a way to make it in the interests of House Republicans to cut a deal that gets them things they want, too. Does this package, and an accompanying legislative strategy, do that? I don't know, but that's the question to ask, I think.
We are told by political scientists that presidential speeches don't move public opinion. But according to a host of polls, people support the individual measures Obama has been pushing — most broadly, they support action to produce jobs. So the question is whether a president can mobilize popular opinion for proposals that are already reasonably popular.
[S]ure, Congress should pass it right away. But I have to confess that I still don't see the legislative road to passage here. The incentive for Republicans to obstruct everything that comes from the White House remains the same as it's ever been, and it remains as strong as it's ever been. Helping the economy helps Obama's reelection, and that's no good for Republicans. And making sure that everyone in America hates "Washington" is good for Republicans.
President Obama’s speech to Congress hewed closely to the details that had already been leaked, save for the dollar amounts, which were considerably larger. Even so, the $450 billion price tag is somewhat misleading in that much of that is not new spending or new tax breaks but rather an extension of breaks and unemployment benefits that are already in place. Given that payroll tax cuts have not generated employment in the past two years, it’s is a stretch to see how they will suddenly do so now. As for unemployment benefits, they are a vital safety net, but that isn’t the same as job generating.
It would be much better to pay for the package when the economy is on better footing than paying for it “by Christmas.” Paying for it immediately will offset some of the stimulus and make it less effective, and I would prefer legislation that triggers new revenue and spending cuts when, say, the unemployment rate falls below some threshold such as 6.0 percent. But political realities rule this out.
Of course, in much the same way that everyone can find something to like in this plan, everyone can find something to dislike. If you believe tax cuts are ineffective during a demand-driven crisis, the plan spends a lot of money on tax cuts. If you don’t believe in infrastructure spending, there’s plenty of it in here to offend you. If government spending goes against your moral code, well, the government is going to spend money. And next week, when the Obama administration releases its deficit-reduction ideas, liberals are going to be a lot less enthusiastic than they are tonight.
[T]he president's tone — his seeming anger and impatience — will be the headlines on Friday and, other than 9/11, the primary topic on the Sunday talk shows. And the banner headlines will be "Pass this now." Advantage White House.
Chart from Calculated Risk.