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What Can Obama Do on the Economy Without Congress?


If Congress won’t act on jobs and the economy, President Obama promises that he will—a message he’s expected to push in Tuesday’s State of the Union. The problem is, there’s not much the president can do his own. 

Despite a brief detente over the budget, Congress remains paralyzed on almost everything else, big and small, that has the greatest potential to help the economy: tax reform, immigration reform, an infrastructure overhaul. To that end, “the president sees this as a year of action, to work with Congress where he can and to bypass Congress where necessary to lift folks who want to come up into the middle class,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” [...]

“If two firms have a similar bid, but one provides them with a better work environment, they can choose them,” Bernstein says. A report from Demos estimates that the U.S. government funds nearly 2 million low-wage jobs, ranging from maintenance staff to home health-aides. But like the unemployment pledge, such a move is relatively small-bore and wouldn’t help create any more jobs either.