With the country mired in extended sequestration, and Congress trapped in a stalemate over how much austerity to impose, it’s good to see that President Obama today plans to renew his push for infrastructure investment to create jobs and get the economy going. The Associated Press reports that Obama will today unveil a plan to create jobs by encouraging more private investment in highways and other infrastructure projects — and with billions in new federal spending on infrastructure, partly via a national “infrastructure bank” that was originally proposed during Obama’s first term.
It appears Obama will propose new spending in his forthcoming budget, which will call for a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. The White House is likely to argue that deficit reduction measures can co-exist with new spending on infrastructure, research, and early-childhood education, which will be offset by other unspecified budget changes.
Obviously new spending is a nonstarter among Republicans, as the President’s partial emphasis on private infrastructure investment makes clear. But Obama should continue pushing infrastructure spending, anyway. For one thing, it’s highly popular: A recent Gallup poll found that 72 percent of Americans — and even 53 percent of Republicans — support new federal spending to put people to work on infrastructure repairs. For another, the notion that we should prioritize spending to get the economy going over deficit reduction in the short term has been entirely marginalized from the Washington conversation, which remains trapped in a dialog between “balanced” austerity (the Dem push for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes) and extreme austerity (the Paul Ryan budget).
We are likely to remain in a state of extended sequestration for some time. Dems can only hope that the damage done by the sequester cuts focuses people on the relationship between government spending and their own economic well being. With it becoming clearer and clearer that the only alternative to extended sequestration is some kind of “grand bargain” that includes serious cuts to entitlements, the least we can hope for is that the possibility of new spending to get the economy going is not completely absent from the discussion.
* White House may propose entitlement cuts: Indeed, in case you need more confirmation of the above, the Wall Street Journal reports that the White House is seriously weighing including Chained CPI for Social Security — i.e., a benefits cut — in its forthcoming budget, as a way to signal to Republicans that Obama is serious about exchanging real entitlement reform for new revenues. Of course, Obama has already offered Republicans this, but they like to pretend he is only seeking tax hikes.
It will be interesting to see how Republicans manage to continue pretending he’s not offering them what he is actually offering them once it’s right there in his budget. And, of course, they will probably do just that: Acknowledging Obama’s actual offer would unmask the true nature of their own position — we must replace the sequester with 100 percent of what they want, with zero in concessions — in all its intransigence and absurdity.
* The public wants real immigration reform: Good stuff from the Fix crew documenting all the recent polls showing that the clear verdict of the public is that a path to citizenship must be a key component in immigration reform. As the polling shows, when respondents are told that the path comes with conditions attached, the idea gets even more popular. This could embolden Republican officials to take the plunge and try to sell the idea to the base, which doesn’t appear prepared to allow more pragmatic GOP officials to fix the party’s looming demographic problems.
* Today’s dispatch from Sequestration Nation: The Post reports that in the next few weeks, furloughs will begin to hit more than half of the country’s two million federal workers. Now obviously this development is unlikely to move GOP officials. But it’s a reminder that we’ve only just begun to see the impact of the sequester, and if it does come to pass that it begins to do serious damage to communities and local economies, it could grow harder for Republicans to sustain the posture that the sequester is a great victory for them.
* NRA whips up “gun rights” brigade: The key paragraph from the New York Times’ write-up of the current state of the political battle over guns:
The National Rifle Association is activating its base, ensuring that Congressional offices and town hall meetings over the next week will be swamped with competing agendas on how to combat gun violence.
This will continue throughout the Congressional recess. The NRA has historically proven exceptionally good at creating impressions of mass public outrage by rapidly mobilizing a small but highly impassioned minority, flooding Congressional offices with calls and letters. Don’t punt, Dems.
* Will Mitch McConnell face a primary challenge? Real Clear Politics reports that Tea Party forces in Kentucky remain serious about mounting a primary challenge, with memories fresh of Rand Paul’s surprise insurgent victory. While it looks like there are no candidates available with the, er, stature of Paul, the mere possibility could make it less likely that the Senate GOP will drop its posture of blanket obstructionism of Obama’s agenda anytime soon.
* Dems need to keep filibuster reform alive: Speaking of Senate Republicans and blanket obstructionism, the New York Times makes a strong case that the unprecedented level and nature of filibustering continues unabated, with the sole purposes of making governing as hard for the Obama administration possible, and argues that Dems need to revisit rules reform and scrap filibusters on nominations.
* And today in GOP minority outreach: The flap of the morning is centered on GOP Rep. Don Young’s use of the term “wetbacks.” He has issued a statement saying he “meant no disrespect.” But as Steve Benen lays out, this is indicative of a much broader, deeper, and even systemic problem that continues to complicate the minority outreach that party officials themselves admit must be improved if the GOP is to keep pace with the changing face of America.