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The Progressive Platform Project

Whether and How to Sell the Jobs Policy

by: BruceMcF

Sat Sep 10, 2011 at 11:11:00 AM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Progressive Populism

First off, the thing to do with the BS about gutting the safety net on the excuse that the Take Everything Away Party wants to kill it is to take the idea of gutting the safety programs behind the farmhouse to the mint bed and apply a sharp ax.

How to do that, I don't know.

But if it can be done, then there's still the question of whether and how to sell the "Jobs Policy"

BruceMcF :: Whether and How to Sell the Jobs Policy
In a Nutshell

Without the specifics, the broad outline (pdf) of the policy is about $240b in tax cuts and $200b in spending. Of the $200b in spending, about $50b is unemployment insurance extension, which is maintaining what we presently have, and $35b is offsetting state and local cuts in teacher and first responder employment, so about $115b in new spending stimulus.

Economically, the alternative is not status quo, the alternative is ongoing cuts, so you could argue that its a useful $200b increase in spending in economic terms ~ but in political terms, "it could have been worse" is a sharp an argument as a plastic knife, so I'll count it as $115b in stimulus.

Can that work? Well, it depends on what you mean by work. To the extent that the $115b in spending can be done over the next year, it is more "Stimulus" than we had last year, and almost as much as we had in the Fiscal Year from October 2009 to September 2010 ~ when unemployment did, in fact, noticably decline.

So in terms of "will unemployment noticeably decline?" as working (as low a bar as that may be), yes, it's likely to work.

Over the long haul, if that worth the promised future spending cuts over the next decade to "pay for" the payroll tax cuts that will have such weak effect? ...

... well, that's the question.

In policy terms, we need employment now. When we set the damage to be done in the future against whatever fights we lose in the future based on the "baseline" including absurd cuts .... against the damage that will be done by a second recession if we allow the economy to continue heading into a second recession ... the recession is more total damage.

And in political terms, I was here in Ohio when Governor Strickland was facing re-election against a heavily corporate backed and heavily attacked for his corporate background rival, and the heavy attacks on his corporate background had a serious impact ... but Kasich still won by 2%. If the economy slips into a recession next year, the Citizen's United money is going to get that to use to continue attacking the half measures taken in 2009, and could quite conceivably lay the foundation for policies that extend the current Depression into something to rival the Great Depression.

Fighting to preserve the safety net is complex enough: I argue for simplifying everything else.

But HOW to support the Jobs Bill

The problem is, based on past performance, we would expect the Obama administration to cave on the useful parts of the Job Bill and accept a "compromise" consisting of only the useless parts. After all, the Republicans would happily accept the useless parts, as advancing their interests while still tilting the playing field to their advantage as they choose between nominating a bad candidate or several worse ones.

So support needs to be both simple, and to be support for the spending plus tax cuts as a package deal.

I reckon the message is:

The real job creators are customers. All the tax cuts in the world are useless unless businesses have orders to fill. Pulling out the spending makes the tax cuts useless, so no spending, no jobs. And no jobs, no deal.

No spending, no jobs. And no jobs, no deal.

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Timid steps in the right direction mixed in with ... (3.00 / 4)
... bold steps in the wrong direction. What lovely times we live in.

Support Lesbian creative works - 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

Useful and thought-provoking analysis. (3.00 / 2)
Your take on how the Citizens United money will be used, and what it will prey on is exactly right. And this:

Quite conceivably lay(ing) the foundation for policies that extend the current Depression into something to rival the Great Depression.

Is the very realistic nightmare scenario.

Your "it's the demand" message is right on point, conveyed in a straight-forward, practical way. Definitely something progressive advocates could run with.

RE: Strickland.

I've heard him grouped with Sestak in PA, Feingold in WI, and Schauer in MI as "bad candidates" who were "not 'centrist' enough."

That's just nonsense. The intensity gap, combined with the dynamic of the narrow (compared to Beltway conventional wisdom) group of true persuadables voting their pocketbook -- as always, was so pronounced in OH, MI, WI, PA that Dems could have, and in many cases did have, good candidates running good campaigns making good contrasts, and it could only move the needle so much. If the economy sucks, turnout is depressed, and insane amounts of corporate interest Tea Party money are supporting the GOP, it's extraordinarily difficult to win. Diluting the party's core values and strongest appeals is the opposite of what works in situations like these.

End rant.

FYI: There's a new advocacy group based in the Midwest called Jobs First 2012. Leo Hindery is involved.

Great post as always, Bruce!  

Also on Twitter  

Fully Paid for as Part of the President's Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan. (3.00 / 2)
To ensure that the American Jobs Act is fully paid for, the President will call on the Joint Committee to come up with additional deficit reduction necessary to pay for the Act and still meet its deficit target. The President will, in the coming days, release a detailed plan that will show how we can do that while achieving the additional deficit reduction necessary to meet the President's broader goal of stabilizing our debt as a share of the economy.

As you know, I'm basically preaching to the choir here as I have done in my last couple of diaries, but this is nonsense, dangerous nonsense. There will be no return to normal. There is no equlibrium. I agree it's only about 115 billion in real stimulus taken into account what you laid out.

If the payroll tax cut(which endangers SS as Nancy Altman laid out) is on the employer side, there's no reason we will see any new hiring, even though I do like the provision that makes it illegal for employers not to hire you just because you are unemployed. That's probably the only thing I like about where this is going long term. The tax credit for hiring the long term unemployed too, but tax credits are not about much in the world of real aggregate demand which is what we need.

Given your long catalog of work on the subject, it must also pain you(and me as well as everyone who cares about this) that this proposal is only 1/25th of the investment in infrastructure that we need in this country with a failing infrastructure grade.

Deficit stupidity and Inter-generational accounting stupidity cancels too much out in the end.

Having a jobs policy ... (3.00 / 3)
... set out, even one which does little good in the present while threatening much damage in the long temr ...

... it is impractical to organize a fight against it. It is, perhaps, more practical to organize a fight for the parts of it that do some good.

In the end, the individual payroll tax cuts will have some partial stimulus impact.

And the two year lag on increases in income tax accounted as being on the "employer" side payroll tax after new hires or pay raises under the cap is something which does little harm and in the context of new demand may do some good in terms of generating some new hires before overtime has pushed existing staff to and past the breaking point ...

... but the general "employer" side payroll tax cut is just a transfer to profits without passing through investment in productive capacity unless there is sufficiently strong growth in demand that creates a need for new investment in productive capacity.

The fight is on standing against the gutting of the social safety net with, in pragmatic terms, a minority of Democrats in both the House and Senate and a moderate Republican in the White House labeled as a D and therefore far more difficult target for a public relations fight by the Democratic minorities in the two chambers of Congress.

Which is why this diary suggests simplifying the message on the balance of the proposal.

Support Lesbian creative works - 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

[ Parent ]
I'm not going to fight against it, I'm just stressing my disappointment. (3.00 / 2)
I did say I like some things about it, especially since I am a long term unemployed artist.

I didn't say the individual payroll tax cuts won't have stimulus impact(multiplier is $1.29 out of every dollar), but as far as lowering unemployment on employer side payroll tax cuts it's questionable though under these circumstances it may do some good there. I'll give you that.

The fact that this Democratic Congress is unable to pull off any transfer from general revenue(pr even begin to make the top percentile of income tax payers pay the payroll tax payer back from the Greenspan Commission deal in 1983) does threaten the social safety net and the payroll tax cut is part of that, because it depends on raising revenue from general revenue.

As Nancy Altman says, before the Obama Bush tax cut sellout that led to the debt ceiling sellout which is what is going to be continued as far as payroll tax cuts, Democrats have never allowed the payroll tax rate to be cut, even temporarily, in the history of the program, because payroll taxes feed the Social Security trust fund and create the political base of support for the program.

So I agree that the big fight is to protect our social safety net, but this is part of that IMO.

[ Parent ]
The Union of the Unemployed position ... (3.00 / 3)
... is pro the spending, anti the tax cuts, proposing the same money instead in CCC / WPA style direct employment.

But labor seems to be already supporting the jobs bill, before getting the fine print on the cuts in the pretence that it ought to be "paid for".

The more complex the argument, the bigger a megaphone it requires to be heard, and while "don't cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid" is simple enough, "the payroll tax cuts made good out of the General Fund threaten over the long term to undermine Social Security" is a much more complex argument, and would require quite a big megaphone indeed.

Meanwhile, odds are that "package deal" ~ again, a simple message ~ has the same impact, since the Republican House will vote down the spending, and so if its a package deal, the "compromise" that there are just the largely ineffective payroll tax cuts goes down as well.

Support Lesbian creative works - 100% Yuri from ALC Publishing

[ Parent ]
Idealistically, I'm with the Union of the Unemployed, but that is a good point. (3.00 / 3)
One does need a big microphone and a simple message.

[ Parent ]
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