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The Issue Is Jobs, Not Deficit Reduction | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

Breaking news and analysis of politics, the economy and activism.

The Issue Is Jobs, Not Deficit Reduction

Republicans never cared about deficit reduction when George Bush was president.
 
And, for the most part, they don’t care now—as evidenced by broad GOP support for House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan’s plan to keep the budget out of balance until 2040 while clearing the way to begin streaming federal Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid dollars into the coffers of Wall Street speculators and insurance-industry profiteers.

But Republican leaders do care about controlling the debate. When the country is focused on an overblown debate about debts and deficits, that forecloses discussion about the serious economic and social challenges facing the nation. It also forecloses discussion about holding bankers and CEOs accountable for irresponssible and illegal practices that have done far more harm to the nation’s fiscal stability than retirees and the children of low-income families who need a little healthcare.

President Obama’s decision to mimic GOP talking points when it comes to fiscal matters has done more damage to his poll numbers—and Democratic political prospects—than anything said or done by an almostly hopelessly inept Republican team.

And one Democratic congressman is calling the president out on the issue.

Describing the president’s acceptance of the argument that the most important political issue facing the nation is reducing the deficit as a “terrible mistake,” Congressman Jerry Nadler, D-NY, says: “I strongly believe we should not be talking about deficit reduction.”

That does not mean that Nadler rejects fiscal responsibility, or that he does not believe in making wise choices to get budgets in balance. What it means is that he refuses to buy into the notion that deficit reduction is the only issues—just as he refuses to buy into the notion that the only way to reduce the deficit is by following the Republican gameplan.

Like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and other wise Democrats before him, Nadler believes that growing the economy by creating jobs is a far smarter approach than cutting needed programs.

“We should be talking about how to create more jobs even if the cost [is] a bigger deficit,” Nadler says of the Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress. “The deficit is a long-term problem, but we could have more spending for a year or two to get the economy up. If we had a 5 percent unemployment rate, that would by itself eliminate two-thirds of the deficit.”

Nadler is, of course, correct.

And he ought not be a voice in the wilderness.

President Obama should stop taking cues from Republicans and start taking them from Democrats like FDR—and Jerry Nadler.

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