Obama Challenges Congress on Its Motivations for Opposing More Stimulus

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 8 2012 12:18 PM

Obama: Why Are You Still Not Passing My Jobs Bill, Congress? Because of Politics, Right?

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US President Barack Obama speaks to the media on June 8, 2012 at the White House in Washington, D.C.

Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages

The general chatter about Obama’s press conference today is that the president didn’t make any real news, merely reaffirming his position on the Eurozone crisis and again pushing Congress to act on his long-dead jobs bill. That’s pretty much right, but can we gauge from the president’s unsurprising messaging what the response from the Republicans will be based on the past? Probably.

At the tail end of his prepared remarks, Obama said that if Congress refused to take action on his jobs bill, made up of ideas from “non-partisan” economists, “just because it’s an election year, they should explain to the American people why.”

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Seems like the answer to that question is right there in the question itself. Why? Because of politics! This Obama line is an old one from the White House, which said in September when the jobs bill was first proposed that Republicans were blocking the measure only out of political expediency.

Republicans have an alternative explanation. What they said last year in response to essentially the same challenge was this: the stimulus didn’t work the first time, so let’s not pass more of it.

"Anything that is akin to the stimulus bill is not going to be acceptable to the American people," Eric Cantor said after Obama initially proposed the $447 billion package.

A week later Cantor repeated the standard GOP line that the original stimulus hadn’t worked: “There was never any guarantee that his stimulus plan would work—it didn’t work… Some of us just believe you don’t crank out money from Washington and create sustainable jobs.”

Now this line about the stimulus not working may not be exactly “true,” but I don’t think there’s any reason to doubt the GOP’s motivations when they say they are philosophically opposed to passing more infrastructure spending as economic stimulus and using tax hikes on the wealthy to pay for this. I don’t think anyone believes that if Mitt Romney is elected and the GOP wins both chambers of Congress in November, then all of a sudden they’ll start passing stimulus spending and the Buffett Rule just because Democrats have a list of economists who support these ideas.

And sure, there are political benefits for Republicans to Congress not passing any more stimulus measures and the economy continuing to struggle, but those are just bonus effects of sincere Republican ideological beliefs.

Jeremy Stahl is a Slate senior editor. You can follow him on Twitter.

 

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