A needed consensus

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s message to Congress about the key role the political sector plays in implementing the measures needed to emerge from the economic crisis could not have been more direct. The problem is that the polarization between Democrats and Republicans in Washington has become an obstacle in achieving much-needed consensus.

An example is the jobs plan President Obama presented a few weeks ago. Despite the president’s effort to tour the country gathering support for it, the plan has not taken off in Congress.

House Republicans rejected the $447 billion proposal and have only agreed to approve what they like: the ratification of free trade agreements and little else. At the same time, Senate Democrats are modifying the plan’s funding despite the president’s appeal to Congress to accept the proposal as it was originally presented.

Ideally, Congress should implement a jobs creation measure based on Obama’s proposal and negotiated between Democrats and Republicans. However, the prospects do not look good. The intransigence that has led Congress to have its lowest approval rating in 20 years is as present today as it was during budget and public debt discussions.

Bernanke’s words are an almost desperate call to political sanity, given that the Fed’s monetary strategy appears not to be enough for a recovery. Americans in general are clamoring for this, since according to opinion polls, they are more confident about the jobs plan than the House of Representative’s obstacles.

It is not too much to ask Congress to set aside political and election agendas to seek a consensus that responds to Americans’ urgent need for jobs.