Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Goodnight, sweet jobs bill

In news that is appalling and unsurprising in equal measures, the Republicans have quietly stuck a knife in the president's job plan.

This outcome was always inevitable. The pundits who pointed out that the bill contained many ideas broadly acceptable to both parties were always failing to reckon with the political element: nothing, including continued joblessness and unemployment, is more unacceptable to Republicans than passing a bill that improves Obama's electoral prospects. You can argue about the exact psychological operation creating the problem -- rationalized self-interest or calculated economic sabotage -- but it's hard to deny its basic shape anymore. Traditional Republican thinking and traditional Democratic thinking both suggest a number of policy reactions to our current economic difficulties. Many of these policy prescriptions diverge; some overlap. Republicans now reject not only the diverging policies but many of the overlapping policies as well. Quite simply, the only recovery they'll accept is a recovery that can be exclusively credited to their own party, rather than jointly to both parties. Whatever they tell themselves at night, it's implausible to believe this sudden change of heart finds its root anywhere but aspirations for 2012.

Of course, this move wouldn't be popular, if anyone were to hear about it. That's why, for a good long while after the president proposed the bill, the GOP let cable networks and newspaper pundits chatter about the possibility of the bill actually passing. The party's full-throated opposition to virtually everything the president does was suddenly muted, convincing many that a deal was in the works. Now, weeks later, after the nation's attention has moved on, the bill can die quietly in the House. That's perfect for Republicans: come election day, the nation will wake up, remember the president's big talk about jobs, look around and realize there still aren't any jobs, and head to the polls confident that it knows exactly who to blame.

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