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What Does a Focus on Jobs Mean?

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"What Does a Focus on Jobs Mean?"

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Alexander Bolton runs down the desire of center-right Democrats in the House and Senate to defer action on the progressive agenda:

In the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections, they don’t want to be forced to vote on climate change, immigration reform and gays in the military, which they say should be set aside so Congress can focus on jobs and the economy.

“It’s hard; the most important issue in front of us is the economy right now, and that’s where most of us really want to stay focused, the economy and jobs, that’s what our constituency is concerned about,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), who is facing a tough race next year in Arkansas.

I’m more sympathetic to this idea than is Steve Benen. Realistically, the viability of progressive governance is going to be determined by the state of the economy in 2010 and 2012. But where my sympathy vanishes is with the fact that the very same people who are so eager to throw Obama’s agenda overboard in order to focus on jobs and the economy don’t seem to have any actual ideas for boosting the labor market.

Instead you get Bob Etheridge: “Three things ought to be the top priority: jobs, jobs and jobs.”

And Blanche Lincoln:

“That’s an awful lot to bite off and chew for right now,” said Lincoln, who described herself as “not in a hurry” to tackle climate change, an issue she has some jurisdiction over as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

And Evan Bayh:

Sen. Evan Bayh (D), who is running for reelection in conservative-leaning Indiana, said “jobs should be our top priority and we shouldn’t do anything that detracts from that,” echoing a sentiment of many colleagues in similar positions.

And John Tanner:

If it was up to me, I would figure out how to handle the war and fix the economy,” said Rep. John Tanner (Tenn.), a senior centrist Democrat who has found himself in the crosshairs of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has recruited a promising GOP challenger.

This is pathetic. Setting aside elements of the progressive wish list in order to focus on improving the labor market is a reasonable idea. But this crowd doesn’t have any actual ideas for doing that. It seems to me that there’s good reason to think that resolving uncertainty about the future direction of American energy policy and immigration policy would, in fact, help spur economic growth. But I’d also be amendable to having congress take up additional stimulus legislation as a way to spur economic growth. Or maybe they could do tax reform. But as best one can tell Tanner & Bayh & Lincoln don’t want to do any of those things or anything else. It’s sad.

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