Progressives urge bold measures in Obama’s pending jobs proposal

Progressive activists are urging President Obama to go big and go daring when he releases his new jobs proposals next week.

Whether they get what they want is a different story entirely.

MoveOn and about 70 other liberal groups sent a letter Tuesday to the president, pleading with him to roll out a jobs plan that matches the scope of the unemployment problem — and signaling that Obama should not announce a plan whose major selling point is that it could appeal to some Republicans.

“Tax cuts and incentives for corporations have repeatedly failed to put Americans back to work,” the groups wrote. “It is time to move beyond these half-measures designed to appeal to a narrow ideological minority who have repeatedly shown their unwillingness to negotiate and their disinterest in real solutions.”

The push from the left comes after many progressives were disappointed with the final outcome of the debt-ceiling negotiations — which included no fresh revenues to battle federal deficits — and were hoping for a better showing from the administration on the jobs front.

But, with the unemployment rate still hovering around 9 percent more than two and a half years into the Obama presidency, the White House has said repeatedly in recent days that it plans on announcing a set of proposals that could garner widespread support.

Liberals have backed some ideas that have been discussed by Obama, such as an extension of a payroll tax holiday that the White House says will give families an extra $1,000 to spend this year. But groups including the Center for American Progress have also said those proposals would merely allow the economy to tread water, and bolder steps are needed to really jumpstart job creation.

Obama has also said that his plan would look to boost construction of airports, roads and railways, while he has long called for extending jobless benefits.

Meanwhile, the administration has also discussed a payroll tax break for employers, and Alan Krueger, the president’s new choice to lead the Council of Economic Advisers, has been bullish on the idea of giving tax credits to companies that bring on new workers.

“The president's proposal will be a combination of things that, in a world less driven by partisan politics, would garner broad bipartisan support,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday aboard Air Force One. “The president hopes that members of Congress of both parties, having returned from their August recess, will come back imbued with the spirit of bipartisan compromise, and imbued with the urgency required to address the needs of our economy and the needs of our workforce.”

For their part, Republicans on Capitol Hill continue to dismiss the 2009 stimulus as an expensive failure, and the House GOP has already released a fall blueprint for job creation that focuses on rolling back regulations and lowering taxes for businesses.

The business community is also starting to press for action from Congress and the White House, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce set to hold a Wednesday event focusing on job creation.

Tom Donohue, the Chamber’s chief executive, has called for paving the way for increased investments in infrastructure and reducing regulations that he said stand in the way of economic activity.

Liberals are also supportive of increased spending on infrastructure. But the sort of federal investments that the Center for American Progress has called for — $65 billion over two years — have little chance of gaining support among Republicans in Congress.

The letter from the progressive groups also calls for higher taxes on the rich, another idea that GOP officials have steadfastly opposed.

“We need a plan that asks the rich and corporations to pay their fair share so we can reinvest in American workers and communities and rebuild the American Dream,” the groups wrote.

They also called on the White House to get behind plans such as Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s (D-Ill.) proposal to create some 2.2 million jobs in such areas as healthcare, childcare and construction, a $227 billion initiative Schakowsky says could be paid for by increasing tax rates on those making at least $1 million per year.

But so far, the White House has given no indication those sorts of proposals have much of a chance to make the cut

“They will be measures that should have bipartisan support and that he expects will have bipartisan support,” Carney said Monday, previewing the ideas in Obama’s upcoming announcement.