President Obama’s latest proposal to reach a deal with congressional Republicans on job-creating legislation, in which he would accept a sizable cut in corporate tax rates if the GOP will agree to billions in new spending on infrastructure projects, is likely as dead-on-arrival as most of the other ideas Obama has offered on the economy since Republicans won control of the House in 2010.
But what’s significant is how the president is describing and framing his agenda for his final 1200 days in office. Obama increasingly sounds obsessed with making sure expanding the middle class, lifting Americans from stagnant wages and reducing income inequality are at the top of his agenda and Washington’s all the time. It’s not that the president will ignore implementing the health care law, passing immigration reform, monitoring crises in Syria and Egypt or trying to reach a deficit-reduction agreement with Republicans.
But Obama is trying to ensure political elites, both in Congress and in the press, spend as much time talking about the challenges for lower and middle-class Americans as they do deficit reduction, Anthony Weiner’s sexting or the Zimmerman case. This will be a tall order, since many of the ideas that Obama is proposing on the economy are not “new” or “fresh” in a way that excites the press. And spending to create public sector jobs, raising the minimum wage, expanding pre-kindergarten and much of Obama’s agenda is strongly opposed by many Republicans in Congress, who would rather talk about equally unlikely-to-pass ideas like repealing the health care law.
In an interview with the New York Times last week, Obama all but promised to give a speech or hold an event about the economy every week until he leaves office, a determined focus the president has rarely shown as he and his administration have often shifted their message to talk about whatever controversy is dominating Washington at the time.
“I want to make sure everybody in Washington is obsessed with is how are we growing the economy, how are we increasing middle-class incomes and middle-class wages, and increasing middle-class security. And if we’re not talking about that, then we’re talking about the wrong thing. And if our debates around the budget don’t have that in mind, then we’ve got the wrong focus,” he said.
He added, “ I’ve been in Washington long enough now to know that if once a week I’m not talking about jobs, the economy, and the middle class, then all manner of distraction fills the void.