Last night, President Barack Obama unveiled his long-awaited proposals to get more Americans to work. At the center of Obama's plan is a relatively modest $400 billion stimulus package that includes tax cuts, new assistance for the unemployed and money for infrastructure building and improvement.
In many ways, it's a return to the past. When Obama inherited a bad economy in 2009, he moved through a larger stimulus comprised of tax cuts and spending initiatives.
The president is asking the Republicans in Congress to pay for the $400 billion via sensible tax increases on big businesses, such as the oil companies, and wealthier Americans.
That is far from unreasonable. The one sector of the economy that has not suffered much as a result of the recession are the wealthy. They benefited tremendously from tax breaks enacted under President Bush and they also can hoard cash, earn interest, and only pay a 15 percent tax due to a too-low capital gains levy.
We suspect that Republicans will oppose the president's plan, and particularly howl at his call for sensible tax increases. If they do so, it will be a knee-jerk, partisan, blocking maneuver that loses our respect. It will also be extremely hypocritical. Republicans have proven themselves as the champions of tax breaks for the most wealthy Americans. They have led cheers for costly tax incentives for oil companies.
We hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress willing to buck their party's tax-breaks-for-the-rich hysteria and join with the president's plan to create more jobs via the $400 billion stimulus. The economy has deteriorated badly. Only a few years ago, most Americans felt pretty secure about their futures. The recession changed that. Millions have lost jobs, homes and savings accounts. Getting by this year is of greater importance than saving for retirement or our children's education.
What's unique about this downturn is that 60 percent of the poor in the U.S. are working-age adults. That's a shift from past conditions, where children made up more of the poor. We need jobs badly.
Both parties must work together to get this economy going. If the GOP congressional members -- including our four members -- refuse to work with the president, they're not hurting the Democrats, they're hurting us.