How Can Obama Bring Down Unemployment?
The conventional wisdom that if unemployment sticks around double digits for the next year, the Democrats are hosed in 2010. I think this CW has the unexpected advantage of being not only conventional, but also legitimately wise. So the question becomes: If Democrats know their fortunes hold hands with employment, how should they try to create jobs?
Max Fisher at the invaluable Atlantic Wire harvests some ideas from around the web: More money for the states; more public works projects; more stimulus; more small business loans; a payroll tax holiday for everybody(!). Some of those sound politically unfeasible (there will be no second stimulus) or insufficient (small business loans and public work projects) or a little too left-fieldish (payroll tax holiday). But I like the idea of relying on the states.
Gerald Seib, peddling the thought in the WSJ, begins with some history. The last time unemployment hit the current high of 9.8% in 1982, it stayed there for a year and Republicans lost 26 House seats in the mid-terms -- and that was when our recoveries weren't all jobless!
So what to do in 2009? Seib suggests that we marry a Republican plan to reward hiring firms with tax credits with a direct state stimulus plan, which would have biggest backing from Democrats. I like this idea for a couple reasons: 1) It combines tax incentives and the brute strength of government spending; 2) It targets some of the leading job-loss columns like education; 3) It stands a shot at bipartisan support.
I know, I know, the odds that more than five Republicans vote for a Democratic bill seem about the same as the odds that the Chicago Cubs win the World Series by write-in. But I think a stimulus package marketed as a "State Rescue" that combined targeted stimulus money for states with tax rewards for hiring firms could attract at least a handful of Republicans -- at least enough the make the bill palatable for polled Americans.
At the end of the day, there is really no getting around the point that unemployment is really, really bad for presidential approval ratings and party popularity and the Democrats are going to have to think of something. Listen to John Judis, and his graphs: