The Washington Post

Reasons for optimism about Obama’s jobs speech?

Former White House adviser Jared Bernstein was one of the most liberal of Obama’s economic advisers. Since leaving the administration has been one of the most persistent critics of the Dem decision to prioritize deficit reduction over job creation, arguing that it has been not only bad policy, but bad politics as well, trapping Dems in a Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop that strangled their ability to make the case for meaningful job creation policies.

So it’s good to hear that Bernstein, who has been privately briefed on what Obama will say tonight, is feeling optimistic that liberals will like what they hear, both in policy and political terms.

“I’m looking for the president to lay out a plan that’s big enough to truly move the needle on the unemployment rate, and to argue that given the economic emergency we face, this is something partisans should support,” Bernstein told me a few moments ago. “The plan seems me to meet both of those criteria in flying colors.”

Bernstein said that based on what he’s been told, he expects the size of the plan to be something “considerably” higher than expected, or considerably higher than $300 billion, or 2 percent of GDP. And indeed the Associated Press is reporting that Obama will propose a $450 billion plan tonight.

Bernstein said he’s confident the plan will be “large enough to get people to work very quickly.”

Echoing other reports, he predicted it would combine tax incentives to fatten pay checks and to incentivize employers to “pull some hires forward,” as well as infrastructure investments and school repair, which is “particularly designed to be up and running quickly.” Also an extension of unemployment insurance.

What about the politics? Will Obama make a bold effort to break the Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop and seriously shift the conversation to jobs?

“I’m not looking for a speech that’s half jobs and half deficit reduction — I think the weight has to be on the urgency of aggressively targeting the jobs deficit,” Bernstein said. “This can’t be `on the one hand, on the other hand.’ He has to say, `We are all about job creation right now. Yes, I know we have to pay for this, and we’re going to, but that’s not the issue of the day.’”

“I’m optimistic that once people who were worried that this plan wouldn’t be large enough get a look at it, they will be pleased by its magnitude,” he concluded. “They will be happy to hear the president lean so heavily into job creation.”

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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