Commentary: As Obama Celebrates a New Jobs Program, Congress Should Do Its Part

The Republicans in the House should get serious about a jobs plan.

Posted: 01/15/2014 01:03 PM EST

President Obama has traveled to North Carolina to promote a new manufacturing institute that his administration touts as a significant engine for new jobs. The project is essentially the result of a collaboration led by North Carolina State University, six other colleges and 18 companies to work on the next generation of energy-efficient products for cars and electronics.

There are several more such collaborations that the administration will unveil in the months ahead. And the president has touted the program as a means of creating jobs that pay well for Americans who desperately need such innovative prospects.

It is a wonderful plan, to be sure. But it only scratches the surface of what is needed to fill the gaping fissures between what is need to get millions of Americans back to work and what the folks in Washington seem prepared to do.

For Obama, it is certainly an example of the philosophy he reiterated earlier this week when he said there are things he is prepared to do by the sheer power of his office.

“I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” the president said, demonstrating his escalating frustration with a Congress that seems petrified in a state of inaction when it comes to the important issues of the day.

Yet, there remains a strong and compelling need for the Republican-led House of Representatives to develop a comprehensive plan to jump start the nation’s employment prospects. The December figures showing a decline in unemployment to 6.7 percent is utterly deceptive. Tragically, it reflects the fact that there are too many Americans who have simply given up on the prospect of finding work and have removed themselves from the job market entirely.

It is not as though these chronically unemployed Americans have somehow relocated to, say, Croatia, the Ivory Coast or Bangladesh. They are still in Newark, Kansas City or Compton, struggling to hold on to their homes and to pay as many bills as that can based on the generosity of friends, relatives, churches and craftiness. They are still here, still aching for a job that will restore their finances and their dignity.

That is a scenario that Republican leaders in Congress seem to callously forget. They shift the blame to the administration forgetting that it is their very fellow Americans not to mention their constituents whose need for employment has long ago slipped into crisis mode.

It would be wonderful for the Obama administration to continue to roll out the kind of wonderful consortium work that it has promoted in North Carolina. Hundreds more would be incredible. But so much more could be done to relieve the strain on so many American households if the Republicans in Congress would look at a far-reaching jobs plan as a means to restore America to financial health and not just as another means of thwarting the agenda of a president they so clearly despise.

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Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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