President Barack Obama presented a plan to stir the moribund U.S. labor market back into growth last night, speaking before a somewhat unsettled joint session of Congress.
The embattled president proposed the American Jobs Act, with a price tag of $450 billion spread across infrastructure spending, exetension of payroll tax breaks and unemployment benefits, and new tax cuts. It's the kind of plan that in normal times might stand a chance, as gross domestic product grew by an anemic 1 percent in the second quarter of 2011.
In fact, it's mostly new or extended tax cuts, with just about $175 billion dedicated to new spending in the form of infrastrucutre projects or aid to states. This is the kind of stimulus plan that seems calculated for maximum political effectiveness.
But none of this matters.
With the 2012 elections looming just around the corner, there's no room for pragmatism in the halls of power, at least for the opposition party. The most important thing for much of the Republican-controlled house is polishing anti-Obama and anti-spending bona fides, and a vote for a new plan backed by the president could well spell political suicide come November 2012. Beyond that, stimulating employment and growth will rebound to Obama's benefit, leaving Republicans cold.
So this is a reasonably realistic plan to at least push the needle in the right direction for employment. But it doesn't matter.
Because the Republicans simply will not vote for it.