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Argument: Obama is dealing with GOP trying to sabotage economy

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An October 12th, 2011 Obama campaign email to supporters: "The U.S. Senate is supposed to vote on the American Jobs Act as early as tonight. It’s a bill that will put people to work immediately, and it contains proposals that members of both parties have said in the past that they’d support. But Senate Republicans want to block it. Not because they have a plan that creates jobs right now — not one Republican, in Congress or in the presidential race, does. They only have a political plan. Their strategy is to suffocate the economy for the sake of what they think will be a political victory. They think that the more folks see Washington taking no action to create jobs, the better their chances in the next election. So they’re doing everything in their power to make sure nothing gets done."[1]

"Obama’s Jobs Plan As a Case Study for Fatalism." New York Magazine. October 19th, 2011: "The debate over the Obama administration among liberals has broken down between what you might call the idealists and the fatalists. The idealists think that Obama could win if only he would adopt the right message and the right legislative strategy. If he adopts a clear-cut populist position and lambastes Republicans for opposing it, he can force them to relent. The fatalists say that’s all wrong. Obama’s problem is that he’s an incumbent during an economic crisis. The opposition party has no incentive at all to support Obama’s proposals, and there’s nothing he can do to make them.

We’re currently undergoing a kind of experiment to see which side is correct. The fatalists are, unfortunately, winning the argument.

Obama’s fall offensive is a perfect rendition of the play the idealists want him to run. He’s proposed a new jobs plan that wins acclaim from nonpartisan economists, consisting entirely of measures that enjoy overwhelming support from the public. To appease deficit hawks, he proposes to pay for the long-term costs with even more popular proposals to raise taxes on the very rich. But what happens?

Step one is that the entire Republican party lines up in opposition. This is easy for most Republicans, who represent conservative states. It’s a little trickier for moderates, but the moderates can always devise some procedural pretext for their "no" votes. If you’re a Republican Senator from Maine, you need to vote against Obama to avoid a right-wing primary challenge. But you also need to signal a vague conditional openness to voting "yes" under alternative circumstances. It's best to avoid putting specific demands on the table, because Obama can always meet them. The winning move is to signal general agreement with Obama but vote "no" on procedural grounds. ... If the GOP can block Obama’s plan, and voters respond by blaming Obama for this, what possible reason do they have for giving in? Supporting Obama’s plan would, for the Republicans, be an act of monumental political stupidity."

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