It didn’t take long for the criticisms of President Obama’s jobs bill to surface.
Although GOP congressional leaders pointedly declined to offer an official response to the president’s speech Thursday night and media discussion of it took a backseat to the 9/11 anniversary coverage through the weekend, by Monday morning the proposals were being savaged, although at that time none of those offering criticisms had actually read the bill.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told reporters on Monday that about half of what the president proposed would be dead on arrival in the House. Then he admitted he had not yet seen the bill.
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead could not have seen the bill either when he emailed his response Thursday night. His criticisms were so general and his attacks so rote that he did not appear even to have heard the speech. Armistead didn’t address any of the proposals the president outlined, but he said Obama’s presidency “is the number one roadblock to job creation.”
Alabama’s Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, issued a statement that “saying that something is ‘paid for’ isn’t enough.” He’s right, of course, but he also was commenting on a bill he had not seen.
Not all Democrats are enamored of the president’s plan, either. Many don’t want to touch Social Security, and some fear the proposals don’t go far enough. But they, too, began critiquing the bill before they ever saw it.
That’s just not the way to get anything done. It may be politics as usual, but politics as usual has come to mean obdurate adherence to party line rather than any meaningful law-making.
For example, the end of the fiscal year is coming up in 17 days. Will we have a federal budget on Oct. 1? No. Are members of Congress even talking about it? What’s the use?
President Obama sent his jobs bill to Congress Monday night. It’s called the American Jobs Act. The bill is 155 pages long and difficult to read. That’s why we ordinary Americans rely on overviews, highlights and, unfortunately, talking points.
Among the highlights for Alabama are payroll tax cuts for 80,000 small businesses and a tax cut averaging $1,240 per household for workers; $512.7 million for highways and bridges in the state, employing a minimum of 6,700 workers; $451.5 million to rehire or prevent layoffs of 7,000 Alabama teachers, firefighters and police officers; $390.3 million to upgrade the state’s public schools, providing up to 5,100 jobs; $22.7 million for infrastructure improvements in cities and towns; $67.6 million for upgrades to community colleges; changes to the unemployment insurance system that could create jobs for 105,000 long-term unemployed workers in Alabama; and a training program for growth industries to enable 2,100 adults and 11,200 youth in Alabama to qualify for jobs.
The president has repeated many times that he wants Congress to pass the bill in its entirety. Of course he does — why would he offer a bill that he wants to have amended or chopped to pieces. That doesn’t mean that he expects the bill to pass without vigorous debate.
Obama says the bill contains equal parts Republican and Democratic ideas for spurring hiring, so legislators on both sides of the aisle should find much in it to like. They may not like everything — probably won’t — but they must be willing to work toward an agreement, for as Obama has said and everyone knows, the country needs jobs, and fast.
Our legislators should not settle for the highlights and talking points, however. They should read the bill carefully before judging it, and they should offer workable alternatives to any points they don’t like.
That’s their job.