Obama's Agenda, Held Hostage By Jobs

The New York Times' Ross Douthat writes in his Monday column:

It's hard to imagine any legislation that might be attacked as "job killing" -- like the Employee Free Choice Act, immigration reform or even cap-and-trade -- finding traction in Congress next year. This means that the broader Democratic agenda is essentially a hostage to the unemployment numbers.

I think this is right, but I'd add that it's also hard to imagine any legislation that the GOP won't attack as "job-killing" unless it's a bill explicitly designed to create jobs, in which case the GOP will attack as "budget-killing." It's a crowded hostage room.

This is another reason why it would make sense for Obama to take on financial regulation, rather than cap-and-trade or immigration reform, after health care. Populist anger at the banks re-crescendos every few weeks, whether it's toward the bonuses or the profits or the scandals or some unforeseen lightening rod. Some Republicans will find something about the Democratic plan to call some flavor of "socialist" -- a likely candidate would be the envisioned "super-regulator" (that's like an institutional czar, right?) -- but some moderates with an interest in being seen as pragmatic Wall St. warriors will likely side with Democrats.

The big question at this point is: Which Democrats? The Senate bill by Chris Dodd guts some of the Federal Reserve's powers. The House bill by Barney Frank doubles down on the Fed as the watchman of the banking system. It will be interesting to see to which side moderates flock.