Commentary: President very late to focus on job-stimulus plans

Facing a grim unemployment picture and potentially disastrous mid-term elections for Democrats, President Obama is launching the political equivalent of a hail-Mary pass to stimulate the economy and create new jobs.

Mr. Obama's chances of helping his party or breathing life into the stubbornly unresponsive economy in the short run with last-minute initiatives don't have much chance of success.

That's unfortunate because under ideal circumstances, the infrastructure bank Mr. Obama proposed at a Labor Day rally is a promising idea that could reform the way the federal government spends money for transportation projects and upgrading bridges, rail transit and airport runways.

Instead of funneling infrastructure money to those states and districts represented by members of Congress with the most political clout, this plan would create a panel of experts to approve projects on the basis of merit. Experts say this would spur innovation and provide the biggest bang for the buck. It would put money where it makes the most economic sense, not where political influence dictates.

By unveiling his plan in a largely political setting, however, Mr. Obama undermined his own goals. The Labor Day rally, on the traditional start of the campaign season, puts the initiative in a political context hardly designed to win the kind of Republican support Mr. Obama will need to pass this measure in Congress -- even if Republicans were inclined to help.

And even if it somehow managed to win congressional approval in the politically charged, pre-election session that begins next week, the plan would not "create jobs immediately," as Mr. Obama promised. It is too late to influence the job market before the November election.

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