National Commentary

Putting America Back to Work

Republican presidential candidates were supposed to debate their job creating plans last Monday evening. Instead, they took the time to attack one another.

President Barack Obama’s $447 billion job plan touched all bases and left the GOP candidates relatively speechless. They were quiet until Obama unveiled the details, which included the horror of all horrors – tax increases. According to White House aides, the President’s employment package would raise $467 billion while covering all the costs of the hiring legislation. But the “just say no” Republican leaders seem unaware that there is a near depression engulfing the country.

House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, said, “We remain eager to work together on ways to support job growth, but this proposal doesn’t appear to have been offered in that bipartisan spirit.” The GOP’s anathema of taxes is well known, but unrealistic.

“This is the bill that Congress needs to pass,” Obama said in a Rose Garden speech Monday. “No games, no politics, no delays,” he added. But this is not the season for such starry eyed candidates who have only one goal – to win the White House trophy in November 2012.

It appears the Republican hopefuls only care about destroying Social Security as we know it. Millions of Americans – retired, elderly and disabled – depend on that monthly check for their survival. It’s not a hand out. It is the product of the New Deal, which Franklin D. Roosevelt established in 1935, and the heart of the Great Depression recovery program.

Starting with George W. Bush’s administration, Republicans have tried to move Social Security to the stock market. Thank heaven that failed.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry – the so-called front runner for the GOP Presidential nomination – called Social Security “a Ponzi scheme” and “monstrous” – words that he has already lived to regret.

In his recent debate with fellow candidates, Perry appeared to back off from such harsh words about a social program. Now he says, “Social Security is open for discussion.” Someone obviously got to him. Is he really ready for prime time?

Obama has said his job recovery program would put teachers and veterans, as well as construction workers, back to work.

GOP leaders more than sensed the need to support some of Obama’s job plans with the public now getting fed up over the continuing political divisions. They said they may go along with the President’s proposal to slash payroll taxes. But they drew the line and rejected the most urgent parts of Obama’s package, which would benefit teacher salaries, school construction and road projects.

None of the candidates, except for Rep. Ron Paul, have suggested pulling out of the wars which are so costly in service men and women, as well as national treasuries. Pulling out of Afghanistan alone would save $2.5 billion every two days.

Obama also called for new measures, including a tax cut to provide $1,500 in savings for the average family, and another tax slash for businesses that add new employees to their payrolls.

“The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: To put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working,” Obama said. “It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services.”
At several points in his speech, the President urged Congress to “pass this bill.” Afterwards, Obama hit the road to exhort potential voters to support his anti-recession program.

There is some similarity to the Congressional and public reaction to the pain of the Great Depression of the 1930s and the present. In those days we saw compassion for our fellow man, including the long lines of the unemployed freezing workers in front of the Ford Motor Company seeking jobs. But the main difference then was that the American people seemed to care about the welfare of their fellow man. Everyone in the labor class was in the same boat.

Obama would do well if he can restore America’s great spirit of compassion and fellowship.