White House focus remains on jobs
By Ben Pershing
In a week where hardly anyone in Washington has been able to get to work, the White House remains focused on one issue -- jobs, and the lack thereof.
"Obama's top economic advisers offered a cautious forecast on Thursday that U.S. job gains for 2010 will average 95,000 a month, with analysts expecting hiring to expand by spring," McClatchy reports. That forecast was part of a broader look at the economy from the Council of Economic Advisers. The Associated Press writes: "Casting its first year as positive, the administration's 462-page report served as a summary of its logic and a pitch for Obama's future agenda. Recognizing voters were likely to hold Obama to account for the economy, the White House team cast blame on their predecessors and unpopular Wall Street bankers." The Wall Street Journal notes that "in a letter to Congress accompanying the report ... Obama called the more than 7 million jobs lost during the recession a 'terrible human tragedy' and renewed his call for lawmakers to advance legislation to boost jobs through small-business tax breaks, infrastructure projects and clean-energy incentives."
Some groups want Obama to do more. "Amid signs that black Americans are not sharing in the nation's fledgling economic recovery, President Obama on Wednesday met at the White House with African American leaders, who urged him to adopt a new approach more tightly focused on chronically depressed communities," the Los Angeles Times writes, adding: "The meeting came at a time when some black leaders have faulted Obama for not pursuing policies more targeted on the economic woes of their community." The New York Times says that "Mr. Obama and the three other black men who met with him for more than an hour in the Oval Office did not focus on programs for African-Americans or limit their talks to issues of concern primarily to blacks, participants said. ... Mr. Obama has said that broader efforts to help the disadvantaged will also benefit blacks." The Washington Post points out that Jesse Jackson wasn't present: "The leaders invited to the White House had requested the meeting with Obama in a letter two weeks ago, and Jackson was not among them. A spokesman for Jackson would say only that he was not invited."
The Senate is still mulling a bipartisan jobs bill, though there won't be any votes on the package until after the President's Day recess. The Democrats who are in town will gather for lunch to discuss the package. "Senate Democratic leaders ended Wednesday still planning to plow ahead with a session on Thursday despite a blizzard blanketing the Washington area," The Hill reports. The Wall Street Journal adds that "several Republicans are expected to ultimately support the measure, but senators indicated Tuesday they simply wanted more time." The centerpiece of the bill remains a Social Security tax break for companies that hire new employees. Will that idea work? The AP is bearish: "There's a problem with the bipartisan jobs bill emerging in the Senate: It won't create many jobs. ... Tax experts and business leaders said companies are unlikely to hire workers just to receive a tax break. Before businesses start hiring, they need increased demand for their products, more work for their employees and more revenue to pay those workers. ... CBO estimates that such a tax break would generate only eight to 18 full-time jobs per $1 million in tax breaks."
As for reining in the deficit, Bloomberg has an Obama interview in which he walks back a campaign pledge: "President Barack Obama said he is 'agnostic' about raising taxes on households making less than $250,000 as part of a broad effort to rein in the budget deficit. ... Obama repeatedly vowed during the 2008 presidential election campaign that he would not raise taxes on individuals making less than $200,000 and households earning less than $250,000 a year. When senior White House economic adviser Lawrence H. Summers and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner suggested in August that the administration might be open to going back on that pledge, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs quickly reiterated the president's promise. In the interview, Obama said that putting preconditions on the agenda of a bipartisan advisory commission, which he said he would soon establish, would just undermine its purpose."
Obama is also getting some heat from the left for saying in the same interview that he doesn't "begrudge" the huge bonuses received by the heads of Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan. Under the headline, "Obama Still Doesn't Get It," Simon Johnson writes that "the White House has a major public relations disaster on its hands. ... This is the antithesis of a free-market system." Politico notes that "a few weeks ago ... Obama was blasting Wall Street bonuses as "obscene" and criticizing recipients as "fat cats who are getting awarded for their failure. ... Recognizing how damaging the comments could be, the White House press team launched a full-fledged pushback, saying that Bloomberg took the remarks out of context." Here's the White House blog entry on the subject.
The White House is also busy defending itself against attacks on its national security policies, specifically on John Brennan. Kit Bond said this week that Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser should step down from his post, after Brennan took shots at the GOP in a USA Today op-ed. The White House says Brennan isn't going anywhere. Politico writes that "the exchange capped weeks of unusually acrimonious sniping between the parties following the Christmas Day bombing plot, with some observers saying the flurry of charges and countercharges has very likely done irreparable damage to Brennan's relationship with Republicans on Capitol Hill."
Beyond the Beltway, the new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that most Americans know relatively little about the Tea Party movement, though "the opening is clear: Public dissatisfaction with how Washington operates is at its highest level in Post-ABC polling in more than a decade -- since the months after the Republican-led government shutdown in 1996 -- and negative ratings of the two major parties hover near record highs." The Daily Caller reports that many Tea Party activists are starting to funnel their time and energy into building PACs. The Boston Herald says "gubernatorial candidates are cozying up to Tea Party organizations across the Bay State in an effort to brew support from the same disenchanted voters that catapulted U.S. Sen. Scott Brown to office." E.J. Dionne writes: "Something else is going on in the Tea Party movement, and it has deep roots in our history. Anti-statism, a profound mistrust of power in Washington, dates all the way to the Anti-Federalists who opposed the Constitution because they saw it concentrating too much authority in the central government."
February 11, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: The Rundown
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