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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union: good job, not great

I think this comment in the Huffington Post captures my thoughts on of the State of the Union speech very well. Everything must be about jobs. Even the deficit should be discussed only in the context of a strong economy: only with people working again, earning good incomes and paying taxes will we make any real progress on bringing down the deficit. I still think the President makes a mistake in talking about the deficit as something that gets equal billing with reducing unemployment. You cannot do both at once, and the efforts to create jobs -- to jump-start a boost in confidence in the future among the unemployed and fearful employed -- must take priority right now.

I think Americans who vote are capable of seeing that sequence as the right one right now, and it's just not that hard to say it in clear, simple language. That's the only way to start grabbing the narrative away from the Republicans (and Blue Dogs), and their deficit-obsessed DC pundit operatives, and putting them on the defensive for a change. How the hell are you going to make a dent in that super-scary deficit if you don't get people back to work and paying taxes? The President panders to that narrative too much, which, because it is wrong and inconsistent with maximizing the national investment that actually will create jobs, takes away from having a clear and simple message that sticks after the speech itself has been forgotten.

It's a very good thing that over 90% liked the speech (CBS), which shows that independents liked its tone and content. I thought the moderate and adult tone was just right, too, but I don't think that would be compromised at all with a more coherent economic message that expressly puts jobs first.

The author of the comment, political consultant Mike Lux, references the belief of some -- specifically, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner -- that job growth is a "lagging indicator." That allows the administration to crow about the rising stock market and exploding corporate profits. That concept really bugs me. Jobs should be the single most important objective, not an "indicator" of some other economic end product. In fact, I wish the President would give full-throated endorsement of the objective of "Full Employment." Sure, investors are part of the picture, and investors by definition want profits, too, but I would contend that over the long haul at least, profits are maximized when employment is maximized, too.

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