Obama Can't Pass a Jobs Program Without the Troops

Little he can do to lower the unemployment rate--except offer a plan to hire veterans

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What can President Obama do about unemployment? Not much. Congress has made it very clear it's opposed to another big stimulus package, and voters think it'd be a waste of money anyway, as The New Republic's Jonathan Chait argues, so what's the point in endlessly talking about one?

Chait points to The New York Times' Paul Krugman's argument that Obama's policies haven't created more jobs, so he must come up with new ones--and if the GOP doesn't like it, he should campaign against them. Chait writes that this "echoes a fairly common argument," but it's one about political messaging, not policy. "I'm not saying the current course is good. When the only thing you can do about the economy is both unpopular and D.O.A. in Congress, there just aren't a lot of tools available." He says Obama can split up the stimulus into smaller, more popular measure, like a payroll tax holiday.
The Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb reports the White House is considering several small measures, like tax breaks for renewable energy and having Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rent out the homes they own from foreclosures. And Suzy Khimm offered a few more ideas, like free trade deals, a tax cut for employers who hire new people, and more funding for transportation infrastructure improvements.
But the difficulty Obama will have in getting stimulative measures through is clear judging by the first post-debt-ceiling-deal he'd pushing. On Friday Obama offered a jobs plan targeted at getting veterans hired. It's a sad truth: you know politicians are up against a wall when they start talking about the troops (it's very hard for people to oppose helping veterans).
The Military Times' Rick Maze reports that the administration is proposing tax breaks for businesses that hire veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Unemployment among veterans of those wars is higher than among the general population, hitting 12.4 percent in July. So Obama is proposing a $2,400 tax credit for companies that hire an unemployed veteran, and a credit double that size for hiring a veteran who's been out of a job for six months or more. Hiring a veteran with a disability from his war service and who's unemployed for six months earns a $9,600 tax credit.
Plus, Obama is pushing a program to get job training for 100,000 veterans by 2013. Another idea is giving soldiers on their way out of the service a "reverse boot camp," to help them transition into the civilian office. "The training would be more intensive than the transition assistance program classes and workshops now available," Maze reports. Current classes involve basics, like reminding soldiers not to call everyone "Sir" and "Ma'am" all the time, because it kind of weird civilians out.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.