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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Column: Well played, Mr. President

On Tuesday night, the Senate officially rejected President Barack Obama’s proposed ‘jobs bill’. The $447 billion measure would have cut payroll taxes for businesses and workers in addition to spending $175 billion on infrastructure and unemployment assistance. To raise money for the bill, a 5.6 percent surcharge on income exceeding $1 million would have been implemented, likely raising more than $450 billion over a 10-year span.

While creating jobs sounds nice, opponents of the bill cited Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan as something that also sounded nice and failed. They accused Obama of using the jobs bill as a campaign crutch for the impending 2012 election. The theory is that Obama created something called “the jobs bill” in a time of relatively high unemployment with no intention of it passing so that he could later cite a ‘do nothing congress’ as the reason for our country’s economic woes.

The always eloquent Obama responded, “If Congress does something, then I can’t run against a do-nothing Congress. If Congress does nothing, I think the American people will run them out of town… With each vote, members of Congress can either explain to their constituents why they’re against common-sense, bipartisan proposals to create jobs, or they can listen to the overwhelming majority of American people who are crying out for action.”

Well played, Barack … well played.

What those comments tell me is that Obama absolutely intends to use Congress’ inactivity in his upcoming campaign. This bill is the ultimate win-win situation for our President. If Congress passed the bill, the public would have lauded Obama for convincing his opponents to see the light.

Since Congress shot down the proposal, Obama can pass the blame elsewhere and set himself up for reelection next November. This level of political savvy is hard for the GOP to contend with, as they simply had no choice but to turn down the proposed bill.

A 5.6 percent income tax on those earning $1 million or more is the antitheses of what congressional Republicans spend their lives trying to achieve. They say that such a tax will cripple small businesses owners who are barely above that $1 million threshold while their opponents accuse them of protecting their rich constituents. It’s the same old political jargon that has existed for decades. The real question is, how do we fix our economy?

Unemployment sits just above 9 percent and the national debt is $14.8 trillion and climbing. How do we get people back to work without throwing fuel on the dumpster fire that is our national debt?

There is no easy answer. All of the Robin Hoods out there would have us steal from the rich to give to the poor. Others are content with sitting on their hands until things blow over. In this humble undergraduate’s opinion, the only viable solution is for those with cash to invest in the future.

I know, I know. Some economic theories hold that, as the rich get richer, they will put that money back into the community by opening more businesses and employing more people. The problem is that, the rich are getting richer but they aren’t putting enough of the money back into the economy.

What we can’t do is just take the money by force. In America, rich = powerful. If you take a rich person’s money, they will retaliate. However, rich people are still people. They have hearts and they care about those less fortunate. There are even some rich people, however rare they might be, who believe that they should be taxed more.

Since we can’t take the money without suffering the wrath of Richie Rich, those with the cash need to be convinced that it is in their best interest to re-invest their earnings.

I’m not suggesting that Uncle Moneybags just hits the street and starts writing blank checks. But if Scrooge McDuck wants to add more coin to his vault, he needs people to spend money in his stores and buy stock in his company. By opening more stores and employing more people, the rich inject their money into our economy and eventually earn it right back.

The unfortunate truth is that, in order for this plan to work, nearly all rich people would have to commit to reinvesting their money, which is a virtual impossibility.

Obama is in a really tough spot. He knows what needs to happen, but he’s fighting a losing battle. Fortunately for him, his political maneuvering likely bought him four more years in the Oval Office. Only time will tell if he can parlay some of his political genius into the tangible economic change he promised.

MARK LING can be reached at mdling@ucdavis.edu.

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