Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Obama's One-Track Mind

For a smart, well–educated guy, Barack Obama has a one–track mind.

Even after insisting that his administration was going to emphasize jobs, he simply couldn't resist the temptation to keep talking about the same thing he's been talking about since he took office — health care reform.

"By the time March arrived, President Obama was supposed to be entering his third month of the year talking about three things: jobs, jobs, jobs," writes Jeff Zeleny in the New York Times.

Zeleny goes on to ponder why Obama's "shift from health care to the economy" was so short–lived. After all, the problem hasn't been solved. Unemployment is still in double digits — and may be even worse when the monthly jobs report comes out on Friday.

I'm glad that Jim Bunning backed down last night and allowed unemployment benefits to be extended. They aren't the answer — they're enough to help some people, not enough to help others — but depriving the unemployed of what is, for many of them, their only lifeline isn't the answer, either.

It's fine that job cuts seem to be less than they have been in two years. But how does that help the Americans who have been out of work for months, even a year or more?

This should be making Democrats nervous because many of them will pay the price for this inattention in November. I know there are a lot of Obama defenders who will talk about whose fault this is, and they'll get no argument from me on that point. But that isn't the issue. The issue is action. In the absence of action, the issue — at the very least — is whether it appears that Democrats are even attempting to address the problem.

Because that is what they were elected to do. But it ain't what they've been doing.

Zeleny quotes at least one congressional Democrat, Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia, who expresses what other Democrats are certainly thinking: "Health care is important. But it's jobs, period. We need to talk about jobs."

Even if he is only giving it lip service, Obama needs to be talking about jobs every day — with the same fervor he has given to health care reform. More, in fact. Because the unemployed do care about health care — but they need an income so they can pay for the other necessities, like food, clothing and shelter, first.

Until he does that, the unemployed (and there are millions of us, in case he and the Democrats need reminding) can't really participate in the health care reform discussion.

And they will not feel reassured that anyone in Washington cares about their plight. Can they be blamed for looking for someone else who will pay attention to their concerns?

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