With the unemployment rate hovering around 9%, President Barack Obama is set to roll out his jobs package in September. Political pundits have been speculating about the size and scope of the package while many are hoping for a bold proposal which includes some public works projects that will create jobs immediately. Meanwhile, President Obama is currently on vacation with his family in Martha’s Vineyard. There is no doubt that the president deserves a break to recuperate and spend time with his family. Nevertheless, the timing of the vacation is strategically questionable. At a time when the Dow is plummeting, and Americans are asking where the jobs are, the unintended message they’re receiving from President Obama is “don’t worry I have a plan but you’ll have to wait until after my vacation.” Over the past few months, the public has been yearning for strong leadership in Washington. A decision to stay in the White House would’ve given the president a chance to step into that leadership vacuum and send a strong symbolic message to the American public that he is focused like a laser beam on job creation, and hammering out the specifics of his jobs proposal with Congressional leaders.
The soon-to-be-proposed jobs package presents yet another leadership test for President Obama. Will this be a big and bold proposal similar to the “grand bargain” that was hoped for in the debt-ceiling negotiations or will it be a relatively modest proposal that has a greater possibility of passing both chambers of Congress? If he proposes a big package that eventually becomes law, he will be lauded for his strong leadership. But if the bill fails to pass in Congress, he will be weakened politically. So will the president fight for a grand proposal that may end up getting voted down in Congress? Or will he push for a smaller package that has a greater possibility of getting passed? Regardless of the political calculations, the ultimate guidepost should be the degree to which the proposal will reinvigorate the economy and stimulate job growth.