I think William Galston is right to say that we’re looking at a real risk of a jobless recovery and right to say that such a scenario would be politically extremely tough for Democrats, but I’m skeptical that this conclusion really follows:
In this challenging context, the president would be well advised to focus more on the economy over the next three years, and to persuade average Americans that the economy is as central to his concerns as is it to theirs. That means taking what he can get on health care and climate change and clearing the decks well before the end of the year. It means going on the road to highlight the job-creating results of the stimulus bill, with events each week for as long as it takes to make the sale. And it means crafting proposals design to stimulate new hiring, not just in the long run, but as soon as possible. A revenue-neutral swap of lower payroll taxes in return for broadening the base of the income tax code could command support even among some Republicans.
If it were actually true that curtailing his administration’s goals on health care and climate change was likely to result in enhanced job creation, I think this would be very sensible advice. But what’s the reason for thinking it would? Some kind of comprehensive tax reform where you lower rates and broaden the tax base would be an excellent idea, but there’s no sign that congress is on the verge of enacting such legislation. If you think the mainstream health care proposals in congress are good proposals, then abandoning them at a moment when enactment seems realistic in exchange for nothing at all doesn’t seem like a very appealing course of action. If you had moderate Senators from both parties saying that they’re eager to enact a second stimulus but think it might be unaffordable in light of the pending health care legislation, then the White House would have a tough choice. Instead, moderate Senators from both parties are saying they’re interested in enacting a health care bill and not-at-all interested in further stimulative measures.