Days before President Barack Obama is expected to unveil proposals to boost America’s sluggish economy and reduce stubbornly high unemployment, the White House is hearing conflicting messages from lawmakers and others as to what the president should put forth.
Thursday’s address before a joint session of Congress is expected to set political battle lines for the remainder of the year and perhaps all the way to the 2012 general election.
Progressive members of Mr. Obama’s Democratic Party say the president should champion bold government action to revive a languishing economy. Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press television program.
“He must have a jobs program, must create jobs,” said Waters. "I am talking about a program of a trillion dollars or more. We have got to put Americans to work. I am very hopeful that the president is going to put a big program out there and fight very hard for it.”
Already rejecting such an approach are Republicans, who control the House of Representatives. Minnesota Congresswoman and Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann blasted Mr. Obama’s economic policies on CBS’ Face the Nation program.
“His solutions have all been government-focused and very temporary gimmick fixes,” said Bachmann. "It is destabilizing if you do not have permanent fixes. I want to see permanency in the [U.S.] tax code.”
That view was echoed by Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who spoke on ABC’s This Week program. DeMint said actions, not words, are sorely needed to boost confidence in the private sector and encourage businesses to hire workers.
“I, frankly, am very tired of speeches,” said DeMint. "I do not want to be disrespectful of the president, but what I want to see is something in writing. I do not think the president is going to come out with things that are really going to create jobs. I am afraid it is just pandering to his [political] base.”
President Obama has only hinted at the measures he will propose Thursday. Last week, reporters repeatedly pressed White House spokesman Jay Carney for details, without success.
“Economists will be able to look at this series of proposals and say that, based on history, based on what we know, that it would add to economic growth and it would cause an increase in job creation,” said Carney.
For months, U.S. joblessness has been stuck at the nine-percent range. Since World War II, no U.S. president has been re-elected with an unemployment rate that high. Constraining the federal government’s ability to stimulate the economy are trillion-dollar deficits and chronic political gridlock in Washington.