- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Like a pit bull on a pant leg, Democrats have lockjaw over jobs — latching on to what they see as a flapping vulnerability in President Bush’s re-election prospects. Based on reports from lawmakers returning from their districts, the partisan attacks may have broken the skin and drawn blood. Yet, the Democrats may be barking up the wrong tree if the Bush administration and some of its congressional allies successfully execute a “fall jobs” offensive, which started earlier this week.

Part of the problem for Republicans was the late-summer slumber. After an August of discontent, bad international news conspired with summer vacations to create a communications void — a hole the Democrat presidential hopefuls “The Nine Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” according to one House member, filled with alacrity. GOP lawmakers returned to Washington and found their party’s ship of state listing after weeks of unanswered broadsides from the Democrats.

Over the next several weeks, congressional Republicans and the administration will begin a sustained campaign to trumpet their past success on jobs and the economy, as well as outline future plans. The complex and emotional issue of job creation requires sound policy as well as shrewd communications tactics. Failing on either is a recipe for economic problems and political failure.

As one Member of the House Republican leadership told me, “We cannot cede this issue of jobs to the Democrats. It’s ludicrous based on what their presidential candidates have said. They have no better ideas about how to save American jobs.”



Commerce Secretary Don Evans began the new jobs offensive at the Detroit Economic Club earlier this week. His remarks highlighted issues that cost manufacturers jobs, such as junk lawsuits, health care costs and energy.

For their part, Senate Republicans may introduce an omnibus jobs/economic package in the next several weeks that incorporates many initiatives highlighted in Evans’ speech — and also stalled or opposed by the Democrats. Asbestos litigation, class action reform, energy policy, and small business reauthorization are among the top candidates. Republicans know this broad package cannot pass on its own, but introducing and discussing it provides a needed communications bulwark against increasingly hostile and unfounded Democrat attacks.

By talking more about their ideas about jobs, Republicans expose the bankruptcy of Democrat attacks. The Web sites of candidates like Howard Dean, Richard Gephardt, John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman are long on slogans, but anemic on specifics. Most just criticize Mr. Bush and offer no concrete alternatives. And contradictions abound. The most popular “job creation” ideas offered are vague aphorisms about “investing” more money in government, never addressing how this new largess comports with their reincarnation as deficit hawks. The “Nine Horsemen of the Apocalypse” are all hat and no horse, lacking real alternatives, unless you consider vitriolic criticism of Mr. Bush a jobs program.

The growth in small business and the technology jobs also needs more trumpeting. According to the government’s Household Survey, 1.186 million new jobs have been created in this sector this year. A private survey released this week by Manpower Inc. of Milwaukee projects more jobs momentum in the fourth quarter. GOP staples like regulatory reform, pro-small business and technology tax policies, (accelerating depreciation and expensing), and litigation reform boosted job creation more than the Democrats’ reprise of the New Deal. Economist Brian Wesbury underscored this point in The Wall Street Journal this week, writing, “small companies are starting up at a faster rate than they did even in the go-go ‘90s.”

And, let’s not forget the impact of tax cuts. While Democrats are in disarray over repealing the latest round of reductions, the stronger-than-expected growth predicted for the remainder of the year is a direct result of this stimulus. The Commerce Department estimates GDP growth would be 3.5 to 4.0 percent lower by the end of 2004 without the tax relief.

Finally, Republican lawmakers heard a torrent of complaints about China and its role in American job losses during the August recess. Protecting U.S. jobs by adjusting trade policies with China, particularly in the manufacturing sector, is a complex task. Mr. Evans also took steps to address these concerns this week, announcing the creation of an Unfair Trade Practices Team. This should provide a strong voice for U.S. manufacturers fighting policies in China, such as closed market sectors and currency distortions.

In the dog-eat-dog world of modern politics, proactive communications strategies are essential; while canines sometimes lie, they very seldom sleep. White House and congressional Republicans have a broad arsenal of potent weapons to fight back on jobs and economic policy. After surrendering the news cycle in August to the Democrats — and paying a political price — Republicans have reinstituted the permanent offense. Now that the dog days of August are over, it couldn’t come at a better time.

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