Saturday, November 5, 2011

Obama's Cleverly Conceived Trap

When Barack Obama introduced his recent jobs proposal, there was a plan behind the plan. He knew that if successful, it might reverse the downward traction in what it increasingly seen as a failed presidency.

There was never any doubt that House Republicans would turn thumbs down to most of the proposal. The Democrats have both the AFL-CIO and the Teachers Unions in their pocket. Hence, "money for rehiring teachers and infrastructure refurbishment" wouldn't happen. By the same token, "extending the payroll tax extension, providing incentives to hire both veterans and the unemployed" were saleable.

Before the plan was introduced, Obama knew that he was looking at "small ball." Political reasoning suggested that in proposing items that were more beneficial to his supporters, he won either way. If they were rejected as predicted, he would have done his best but the Congress blocked his efforts. If the bill somehow passed, he would have pulled a rabbit out of the hat!

The one item of the bill that crossed party lines was extending benefits for the long term unemployed. Obama knew that many of these unemployed were Republicans. Others were Independents. He expected the Tea Party to reject the proposal on ideological grounds. He also correctly predicted that the hard right brain trusts of the GOP such Art Laffer would offer conclusive evidence against such a proposal. He figured that many of the Republican candidates would be forced to speak out against it.

Newt Gingrich comes to mind. He is a smart man, perhaps the greatest debator the party has seen. He is rising in the polls, gradually gaining Tea party support with each passing days. Many forget that he is Republican Establishment. A lot don't remember his willingly casting support, verbal and financial, for Dede Scozzafava, New York 23rd's turncoat Republican candidate.

What's important today is that Gingrich has joined the throng of Tea Party ideologues in denouncing this part of Obama's jobs proposal. Obama could not have predicted a more favorable development!

There are three states that may turn the election: Florida, Ohio and Michigan. The Democrats must win two of them. If they lose two of three, it will almost certainly be an electoral loss. All three states continue to suffer from high unemployment.

In Michigan, Senator Debbie Stabenow has authored the "99-week" extension plan. Ohio has been ravaged by outsourcing. While showing signs of improvement, it is still above the national average in percentage of unemployed. The economy in Florida continues to reel from the housing collaspe. Many of those hurt were professionals who simply can't move because their mortgages are under water.

Tough words by Gingrich and others exhilerate the Republican base. But they win no points with frustrated professionals who may decide the 2012 election. The Obama camp knows this. Their hopeful prediction is that the Tea Party will blow the election for Republicans. Establishment "Neo-Cons" such as Gingrich fuel the fire.

At this juncture, the Repubicans have few options. If the jobs bill dies, they win the battle but lose the war. Everyone agrees in principle that it's folly to extend unemployment benefits for long periods of time. However, like immigration reform, there may be call to exhibit some flexibility. If, for no other reason, to throw the ball back into Obama's court!

A compromise that extended the unemployment benefits, coupled with payroll tax cut extensions, and sidebars could be proffered. In exchange, the administration would agree to a one-year moratorium on any and all new regulations.

Talk about turning the tables!

For starters, the President would likely reject such a compromise. "Regulations are good," in his thinking. To suspend a key part of his agenda would be out-of-bounds. To those unemployed who were counting on those extensions, it would expose him. Advocates such as Senator Stabenow would be forced to choose between Obama's and her own agenda. It's likely that she would choose the latter.

Furthermore the excessive regulations that have been imposed by this administration would leap to the 2012 election forefront. Even staunch supporters of the administration such as Debbie Stabenow would question Obama's priorities.

It adds up to electoral wins in Michigan, Ohio and Florida and the White House for the Republicans. Unfortunately most Republicans are too stubborn to see anything save principle. I can hear Tea Party and non-Tea Party Republicans saying "it just goes against my grain to encourage people to not go out and find a job."

Those are the "famous last words" of someone who has been fortunate enough to have a job. Those who have haven't been as fortunate will tell you, "be glad you're where you are, and not where I am!" You hear accounts of months of fruitless job searches. So what is reality?

Perhaps the thinking is, they haven't tried hard enough. Let us assume that they are correct. It still comes back to the Democrats controlling both the Senate and White House. To change that, the Republicans need to win in 2012. To win the presidency, they need to win Florida and either Michigan or Ohio. This may not happen if they deny the long term unemployed a little more time to land on their feet. All three states will come down to Independents. Those denied unemployment extensions by Republicans will remember. On election day, they will vote.

Obama knows this. He also knows that many of the registered Republicans may do the same. People vote their pocket books. These numbers, albeit small are larger than average in Florida, Michigan and Ohio. In a close election, it might be enough to tip the scales. The end result: an Obama re-election, thanks to the Tea Party and "friends."

Thus, "Obama's trap" has been set. He is counting on the Tea Party to pressure John Boehner to resist any kind of addition to the deficit on ideological grounds. As a bonus, he has gotten some help from rising, aspiring "neo-cons," who smell Tea Party support. He never expected a large part of his jobs plan to get out of the chute. But this part of it helps Republicans as well as Independents. His hope is the GOP will reject it, alienating just enough voters to swing the election.

It's bait. Will they take it? Looks like they might...

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