Obama's Bipartisan Dream for Jobs Bill Will Fail

President Obama wants to work with Republicans to craft a jobs bill that rewards employers for adding workers to their payrolls. Bipartisanship on the jobs act is a noble effort -- maybe even good politics -- but it's not a realistic goal. Republicans have made it pretty clear they won't support tax incentives for employers, which is the most politically palatable part of the White House's job creation strategy. Other measures like state aid, infrastructure spending and unemployment insurance extensions were the heart of the House jobs bill which every single Republican voted against.

But really, what's the game plan here?


Jon Chait's theory is Obama's strategy against opponents is consistent*: "take them up on their claim to some shared goal (nuclear disarmament, health care reform), elide their preferred red herrings, engage them seriously, and then expose their disingenuousness."

Maybe, but it's pretty clear to me how this turns out. Republicans will ask if Obama's willing to consider an across-the-board tax cut. He'll say no, because he doesn't think it will create jobs and he knows it will add significantly to the deficit. Then Republicans will say they couldn't reach a deal, Obama will have to build a job creation bill with Democrats only, and Republicans will counter every proposal with: "This is more of the same old failed policies from Democrats, who are spending our way into a bottomless hole and tragically burdening on our children with debt without doing a thing create jobs."

That will re-dig the trenches. Mainstream news will describe Congress as a partisan pit, and public opinion will begin to turn against the bill because they think Democrats are forcing legislation through, and the bill is taking too long to come together, and they don't think it will work, anyway because the press surrounding the bill will be mostly negative. Moderate Democrats will get nervous and ask to pare down the bill, which will probably make it less effective, and months later, if Democrats actually pass the weak-sauce law, it will necessarily lose Republicans, alienate independents and frustrate liberals.

So yeah, bipartisanship. Let's have at it.


*Chait's dissecting the plan to hold a bipartisan health care summit, but it's the same principle.

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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