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Obama to GOP: ‘Show me YOUR jobs’

Gary Caruso | Thursday, November 3, 2011

The actual start of the presidential election season begins today — exactly one year from now countdowns to the weekend before the 2012 election. While GOP presidential hopefuls have campaigned for months to replace President Obama, the president just recently shifted from governing mode into campaign mode while promoting his new jobs initiatives. In just 366 days, both campaigns will more than likely begin a grueling all-day, all-night final marathon effort to climax their campaigns in the critical swing states. Most importantly, one political camp will probably know the election’s outcome a few days early based on their sophisticated internal polling that deciphers political trends.

On this day in 2008, the Obama campaign knew it had won over GOP nominee John McCain. On this day in 1980, Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory over incumbent President Jimmy Carter was unknown because they had only debated once that week. However, that weekend polling revealed that Reagan was trending up and by Monday before the election, both Carter and Reagan knew the election’s outcome. On this day in 1984, Reagan embarked upon his whistle-stop marathon train ride through Ohio to solidify a pivotal piece of his winning electoral strategy. Chances are that one year from today both sides will know which campaign’s efforts were successful.

While each election’s dynamics vary, the path for President Obama mirrors Harry Truman’s 1948 run against the “Do nothing” Congress. Rightfully so, Obama can pound against an obstructionist GOP by emphasizing programs to keep police on the streets, teachers in the classrooms and increase construction and manufacturing jobs for infrastructure projects. He can pointedly note that his tax proposal only affects about 350,000 of the wealthiest Americans and only averages about $350 per initiative. Those powerful compelling arguments, when offered succinctly, counter the GOP stand against all tax increases. However, Obama needs to also eliminate a major GOP claim that overregulation stifles job creation.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and acclaimed historian Arthur Schlesinger, a member of President John F. Kennedy’s administration who also extensively studied President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s White House tenure, noted that politics is a learning profession. Schlesinger saw life as a walk through history, and if alive today might be appalled at our disregard of the similarities between today’s economic conditions and FDR’s struggle to invest in infrastructure projects to overcome the Great Depression. The GOP in the 1930s — like today — claimed the deficit was too large, government too big, taxes too high, regulation too overbearing while opposing governmental spending as a means to put people back to work. In reality, governmental spending for World War II, not typical free-market policies, eventually pulled our economy out of the Depression while FDR won 46 of 48 states in 1936.

With those historical lessons tucked into our back pockets, fast forward into today’s uber-partisan political climate with our 24-7 news cycle. Entering his third year in office, Obama — just like FDR — faced growing dissatisfaction for how slowly the economy was rebounding. Obama — just like FDR — is fighting against today’s equivalent of Herbert Hoover’s “cut government, cut the deficit” supporters. Today, Obama simply must acknowledge that politics and his administration are indeed learning professions, then discredit a major GOP one-note mantra, “Cut government regulation.”

Obama should emphasize just how badly the prior administration’s deregulation policy damaged our economy. Voters cannot visualize how the stimulus policies kept our economy from diving over a cliff. Voters only remember the promises that bailouts and stimulus programs would reduce unemployment below 8 percent. Make the American public imagine just how badly our economy was wrecked by deregulation if after three years of extraordinary efforts our economy is still struggling to barely chug along. Then announce a 6-month postponement of federal reporting procedures for businesses that do not have a history of recent violations and a moratorium on federal regulations that do not affect fairness, safety or health.

Voters will not visualize a fight over regulations. They only understand that some regulations are necessary but others can sometimes be burdensome. Obama can establish his playing field while defining his terms of the rhetoric. Then the president can turn to the GOP and say, “You have half a year to show me your jobs. I have always been open to GOP policies that stimulate the economy. If we see job growth, as you so vociferously claim, I’ll continue this moratorium. I’ll even go one further. I’ll work with you to permanently change regulations that do not affect fairness, safety or health. So, show me your jobs!”

Gary Caruso, Notre Dame ‘73, serves in the Department of Homeland Security and was a legislative and public affairs director in President Clinton’s administration. His column appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at GaryJCaruso@alumni.nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.