Our current high unemployment, while the more retrograde gleefully proclaim the stimulus a failure – despite evidence that it softened the fallout of our latest financial crisis considerably. Wiser observers, such as the Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman, note that more rather than less stimulus was what was really needed if we wanted to give the economy the boost it needed to rev up the jobs engine:

What we’re in right now is the aftermath of a giant financial crisis, which typically leads to a prolonged period of economic weakness – and this time isn’t different. A bolder economic policy early this year might have led to a turnaround, but what we actually got were half-measures. As a result, unemployment is likely to stay near its current level for a year or more.

Sadly, Krugman is probably correct when he notes that realistic efforts to augment the stimulus with real job-creation measures will probably fall victim to the same politics that make it so politically fulfilling to carp bout the failure of the stimulus as if it were, despite all the facts, a failure.  The result, according to Krugman, will be “years of terrible job markets, combined with political paralysis.”

This was brought home to me via a letter (3rd down) in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch which asks:

It would be prudent if he would stay home and start acting like a president by creating jobs … With a Democratic Congress, why can’t he do something that will help – not hurt – the American people?

This letter writer, while confused about the effects of spending in a recession, along with a number of other points, asks the right question.  Presidents don’t do it alone. Sure – times like ours do require a president with vision and political skill, but they also require smart legislators with the courage to take the necessary political risks.

And what have we got?  Consider Missouri’s own Claire McCaskill’s response to a potential Senate jobs bill:

I think we’ve got to be really careful in thinking we can spend government money to get us out of recession,” said Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, who called for low-interest loans for small businesses.

Nothing too wrong about that – but nothing really promising either – just McCaskill doing her usual level best to tiptoe around the issue, do something,but not anything that would upset the narrow perspective that she believes characteristic of Missouri. Suitably timid, totally the cagey politician.

What I want to hear from McCaskill (and the rest of the Missouri delegation) is their critique of serious ideas such as the Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Five-point Plan to Stem the Jobs Crisis.  Talk about bold – the EPI recommendations include a WPA style plan, investments in infrastructure, transportation, and education to create an estimated 4.6 million jobs in the first year alone. And since McCaskill wants to be fiscally prudent, she should let us know who she feels about fundig this program through a financial transaction tax which would mostly paid by the wealthiest 10% of the population.

And maybe, while she’s at it, McCaskill could tell us why she is so cautious about cap-and-trade. All I’ve ever heard from her are assertions that it would be good for “Missouri’s famililes.”  But I haven’t heard her objections to those arguments about  

but somehow, I bet it won’t lead to the type of action that we need, just a lot of pusillanimous tiptoeing around the issue that seems to characterize McCaskill along with lots of other “centrist” Democrats.