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Thursday, March 18, 2010 01:01 am

Stiffening the backbones of Democrats

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You know what we need to juice up the performance of our weak economy? Viagra.

Yes, America needs a new Viagra, specifically targeted to stiffen backbones — in particular, the limp backbones of Barack Obama’s team, as well as the flaccid spines of Democratic congressional leaders. Where’s the drug industry when we really need it?

The Obama-ites seem incapable of firm stands. They excite us by boldly addressing our economic woes, then they seduce us by proposing stout actions. But when it comes time to follow through — it’s droopsville.

Take America’s job crisis. Obama and the Democrats eloquently empathize with the plight of struggling families who are falling out of the middle class. They point out that after Wall Street banksters crashed our economy and created the Great Recession, which began in December 2007, the number of jobs available to Americans has plummeted by more than 8.4 million. Since then, another 2.7 million jobseekers have come into the workforce. That leaves us in a hole that is 11.1 million jobs deep.

The White House and Congress correctly note that our economy must not merely stop losing jobs, it must create more than 400,000 new positions a month for the next three years just to get us out of this hole. Nothing is more important, they tell us, blowing kisses of compassion and promising satisfaction.

“Our three most important priorities in this Congress,” says Rep. Bob Ethridge, a North Carolina Democrat, are “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Obama himself has titillated the hopes of working families by proposing a $266 billion national emergency program to put America to work.

Strong stuff — let’s get it on!

Sure enough, after a lengthy romancing of their Republican colleagues (who are devout believers in an abstinence-only job-creation policy), the Democrats finally made their move last week. With the support of five GOP senators, the “jobs, jobs, jobs” bill passed in both houses of Congress.

But ... what a letdown. To win those five Republican senators, Democratic leaders shriveled their job investment program from a robust $266 billion to a frustratingly puny $15 billion. Even such phony Casanovas as Sen. Chuck Schumer had to confess that the “package is not a panacea; it’s not going to solve everything.”

Everything? Chuck, admit your impotence. At most, this bill might stimulate the creation of 250,000 new jobs — a bit short of the 11 million that America needs just to get back to where we were in 2007, much less the need to create an economic path to lead us into a bold future of new, sustainable, middle-class job creation.

In fact, the Democrats’ response is even weaker than it appears. Rather than directly creating jobs that pay workers, the $15 billion is going into tax breaks for businesses. The convoluted hope is that the money will “encourage” the recipients to hire a few people who are suffering from long-term joblessness. This trickle-down approach is even more pathetic than trying to fight a house fire with a squirt gun, for it doesn’t even put the squirt gun in the hands of the people caught in the fire.

What the Democrats have done is to pass a do-nothing Republican bill, a reality that was blurted out by Sen. Orrin Hatch, one of the five GOPsters to vote for it: “This is a conservative approach to help put our economy back on track through tax relief, not government spending.”

What a fraud. And an insult. Remember when Wall Street bankers shouted “Fire!” two years ago? Both parties rushed to the rescue, not with “conservative” tax relief, but with trillions of public dollars that they put directly in the hands of the same Wall Street arsonists who started the fire.

We expect pious Republicans to consider millions of struggling American workers to be less worthy than a few greedheaded bankers, but not the Party of Roosevelt. Yet one Democratic leader said of this feeble bill, “Better something than nothing.”

Maybe they’re fooling themselves — but not us, and certainly not the jobless. This bill is nothing. And if Democrats don’t stiffen their spines, they’ll be nothing, too.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.
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