Playing Politics With Policy.

The big news to come out of Labor Day was President Obama's plan for a $50 billion government investment aimed at upgrading roads, rail, and airport runways over the next six years. This is a good idea, and on the whole, should have a net stimulative effect on the economy, though not by much. Of course, there's also zero chance that this will survive Congress; conservative Democrats will voice their "concerns" about the deficit, and Senate Republicans will showboat about spending and taxes before condemning the plan to death by filibuster. As Steve Benen pointed out, soon-to-be Speaker John Boehner has already given us a taste of the Republican spin on Obama's proposal:

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio Monday criticized President Barack Obama's proposal to boost infrastructure investment as more stimulus spending doomed to fail. "As the American people, facing near double-digit unemployment, mark Labor Day by asking, where are the jobs, the White House has chosen to double-down on more of the same failed 'stimulus' spending," Boehner said in a prepared statement.

Republicans have targeted an unemployment rate that continues to hover above 9 percent despite last year's economic stimulus plan. "If we've learned anything from the past 18 months, it's that we can't spend our way to prosperity," Boehner said.

This is delusional but expected; know-nothing Republican opposition hindered the first round of stimulus, and know-nothing Republican opposition will hinder this attempt to help cash-strapped states and localities.

This episode only stands out because it marks the first time -- in a while -- that the White House has decided to play politics with policy. Midterms are a turnout game, and pushing liberal-friendly policies -- especially when they have no chance at passage -- gives the rank-and-file a reason to vote in November. This is something Republicans understand well; the Bush White House used legislation to build trust and support among conservative activists in a way that simply hasn't been mirrored by the Obama administration. This infrastructure bill is a little late in that regard, but it's a decent start.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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