Posted at 09:39 AM ET, 09/02/2011
More reasons for Obama to go big on jobs
By E.J. Dionne Jr.

If anyone doubted that we need a much more aggressive effort to create jobs ó and if anyone doubted that our eight-month-long obsession with debt reduction was a giant distraction ó todayís jobs numbers should clear away any misapprehensions.

As the Associated Press reported this morning:

Employers added no net workers last month and the unemployment rate was unchanged, a sign that many employers were nervous the U.S. economy is at risk of slipping into another recession.
The Labor Department says total payrolls were unchanged in August, the weakest report in almost a year. Itís the first time since February 1945 that the government has reported a net job change of zero. The unemployment rate stayed at 9.1 percent.
And notice something inside the numbers. This is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics report itself:

Government employment continued to trend down over the month (-17,000). Despite the return of about 22,000 workers from a partial government shutdown in Minnesota, employment in state government changed little in August (+5,000). Employment in local government continued to decline. Since employment peaked in September 2008, local government has lost 550,000 jobs.
I added the italics to make a point: The Obama administrationís original stimulus plan wasnít big enough, but it did create and save millions of jobs, and one reason was the assistance it gave to state and local governments to prevent layoffs. That assistance is running out, and if there is one big ďjob-killerĒ out there, to use the Republicansí favorite phase, it is all those government cutbacks in states and counties, cities and towns around the nation.

We donít know for certain how much debate there still is inside the administration about how big the presidentís jobs proposal will be. But those who want to make it bigger are right, and these numbers should bolster their position.

This isnít just a matter of politics and the next election. For the sake of the country and the jobless, President Obama really needs to change the debate and make clear that itís not just liberals who think the economy needs a boost right now. The ranks of those who believe in more stimulus include business people, investors and economists of many political stripes. Now more than ever, Obama needs to think and act big.