At the Republican presidential economic debate last Wednesday there was a lot of talk about the impact of taxes and regulation on the U.S. economy, but there was very little discussion — or rather specifics -- about the issue that matters most to Americans: Jobs.
In October, nearly 14 million people were unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but that's before the counting the country's under-employed, which put the jobless number above 20 million. As for the unemployment rate, it has been stuck between 9.0% and 9.2% since April with roughly 100,000 payrolls added each month mostly due to private sector growth. (See: October Jobs Report: Deja Vu All Over Again)
Against that backdrop, and with the 2012 elections looming ahead, President Obama has been canvassing the country to for two months promoting his $447 billion jobs program while also urging Congress to pass it, so far to no avail.
"The American people, at this point, are wondering about Congressional leadership in failing to pass the jobs bill -- the components of which the majority of Americans, including many Republicans -- think are a good idea," said President Obama over the weekend. "And that's part of the reason why the American people right now aren't feeling real good about Congress. Normally, by the way, the way politics works is if the overwhelming majority of the American people aren't happy with what you're doing, you start doing something different. So far that hasn't happened in Congress -- and the Republicans in Congress in particular."
Jack Lew, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, joined The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task and Daniel Gross in the accompanying to talk about the President's plan, which includes extending the payroll tax cut for working Americans and businesses (the break is set to expire at the end of this year), helping state local governments prevent up to 280,000 teacher layoffs and keeping police and firefighters on the job, and implementing a public works program to update the country's infrastructure.
"The American people do not think we can wait. They are painfully aware that we need jobs and we need them now," says Lew. "Obama's plan would be a powerful boost to the economy and help create jobs at a badly needed time."
As noted above, many of the elements outlined in the President's jobs package are elements that Republicans have support in the past, which begs the question: Are Republicans playing politics with the economy?
Watch the interview to hear Lew's response and tell us what you think in the comments section below.