At the New Republic today, TDS Co-Editor William Galston notes that President Obama has begun a crucial pivot towards an emphasis on job creation in his speech at the Brookings Institution.
But he’s just beginning. To complete the pivot and make 2010 the year of jobs, two other things must happen. First, the White House must fully integrate the jobs focus into the president’s schedule. Some equivalent of the Allentown visit should occur at least weekly, and it wouldn’t hurt to see the president in a hard hat, cheering on projects that wouldn’t have gotten started without government action.
Second, the legislative agenda for 2010 must reflect and reinforce the renewed focus on job creation. That means postponing items that the American people are bound to regard as diversionary as long as unemployment remains high. While action on items such as climate change and immigration is worthy in principle, the time is not right. If the president and congressional leaders try to force the pace, they are likely to fail—and pay a heavy political price in November.
There’s a lot of uncertainty about where the unemployment rate is likely to go during the next year, with or without a major new administration initiative. But a presidential focus on job creation that’s frequent and visible enough that no one will miss it could be an important political asset no matter what happens.