Even though it skipped Ohio, President Obama's Midwest bus tour this week was an important symbolic acknowledgment of this region's economic miseries. But the nearly one out of six Americans who are unemployed or underemployed need more than symbols. They need jobs, and that will require meaningful action by their government to help create those jobs.
The White House says the President will make a major address on jobs soon after Labor Day. That speech would have been more timely on his second day in office, if not his first. But having waited this long, Mr. Obama now needs to offer proposals equal to the size of the problem.
That means bold strokes, not warmed-over half-measures. If his Republican antagonists in Congress are determined to stand in the way of Americans going back to work, the President must say so publicly -- and then go over their heads to enlist the nation in his effort.
Administration officials have talked about such things as extending a temporary payroll tax cut for Americans who are working and federal jobless benefits for those who aren't, adopting three free-trade agreements, and fixing the patent system. These things are necessary.
But they are not sufficient, because they either would take too long to work or would merely maintain policies already in place. At a time when the nation is at risk of sliding into a second recession, Washington must do more.
The President's plan for additional short-term stimulus spending is vital, but its details are important. He seeks an "infrastructure bank" that would, among other things, pay the wages of unemployed construction workers to fix schools, roads, and bridges. But instead of taking ownership of the idea, he merely has called on Congress to enact it. That is a prescription for inaction.
American businesses sit on trillions of dollars, but refuse to hire because of purported "uncertainty" over the state of the economy. They call for more tax cuts, more tax breaks, more relief from regulation, but even when such things are made available, their wallets often stay shut.
Instead of passing around party favors indiscriminately, the President and Congress should carefully target business tax cuts and credits. They should make these incentives contingent on demonstrated job creation, especially for poor, young, and long-term unemployed workers.
Budget-cutting in Ohio and elsewhere has led to layoffs of public employees: teachers, police officers, firefighters. A federal program that would make money available to rehire some of these workers would be money well spent.
Enacting such measures now need not conflict with achieving necessary long-term deficit reduction. Efforts to reduce federal spending will work better when the economy improves.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio showed his disdain for the President's jobs plan by advising him, via Twitter, to "just drop it in the mail." Such contempt is all too reflective of the attitudes of Republicans who place Mr. Obama's defeat next year ahead of the welfare of the country in the meantime.
The most effective response the President can make to overcome such automatic rejection -- and promote his re-election -- is to offer an effective plan for job creation, and then push hard for it.