In light of Friday’s crummier-than-expected jobs report, Hardball’s Michael Smerconish spoke to two of the country’s most knowledgeable economists, former chief economist to Vice President Biden, Jared Bernstein, and former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich about how President Obama should proceed from here.
Here’s the framework: no president since the Great Depression has been re-elected with an unemployment rate above 7.4%. As we learned today, we’re stuck at 8.2%. Smerconish asked Robert Reich, “Is it time for the president to put aside the 9-iron and bring out the driver? Does he need to do something more bold, relative to the economy?”
Reich knows his stuff. He said:
“I think so, Michael. He was dealt a terrible hand, the worst economy since the Great Depression. Though, he’s going to have to say something more than 'we’re making progress, it’s slow progress, I was dealt a bad hand.' He’s got to be a bit bolder. He could say, if I get the votes…we’re going to have a new works progress administration, a civilian conservation core. We’re going to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. We’re going to rebuild education. We are going to have a first class nation in every respect, and we’re going to fight and keep fighting for average working people.
The president can say, what about a middle class tax cut, what about exempting the first $20,000 of income from the Social Security Payroll Tax. He can say, I, the president of the United States, am not going to stop making new proposals simply because the Republicans say no.”
Jared Bernstein agreed:
“I think that’s precisely the kind of thing the president should talk about. Now, he doesn’t need to introduce, necessarily, a bunch of new things. He can say, absolutely correctly, I’ve got ideas that I’ve been trying to promote on Capitol Hill for well over a year and some of them are just really good common sense. For example, we know that last month we shed 14,000 jobs in local education. 23 of the last 25 months, the public sector has shrunk. Now, you should go forward at a time like this and say, folks, these are your teachers, these are your police, these are your firefighters…the president has to explain to people who is standing directly between them and a better economy, better opportunities and more jobs – and that would be the Congress.”