Republicans have pulled off a neat trick since taking over the House back in January -- they've repeatedly attacked President Obama on the languishing job market while shifting government focus away from job creation and toward the deficit and debt.
Now, the House Progressive Caucus is planning to turn the government's attention back toward eliminating unemployment. Starting Wednesday, caucus members will fan out across the country on a summer tour that will attempt to push the focus away from spending reduction and toward using government resources to create jobs.
"The media and the right wing and, of course, some Democrats have been talking about intangibles like the debt ceiling or the job picture," Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) told TPM in an interview previewing the announcement. "We wanted to do a tour that really talks about what matters to people."
To Grijalva and the CPC that means discussing a government that makes "a commitment to the middle class" and pushes for an economic package that focuses on middle and working class people -- "not just the wealthy and not just the CEOs," Grijalva said.
Earlier this year, the CPC put forward their own federal budget proposal that raises taxes on the rich and corporations (as well as ends the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) and plows the increased revenues into new education, health care and other middle class-focused domestic spending.
That's the kind of government Americans want, Grijalva said. He faulted the White House and other Democrats for veering away from the kind of solutions the CPC intends to highlight on the tour and driving the national agenda headlong into the Republican-friendly territory of tax decreases and spending cuts.
"I think it comes from being timid," he said. "It really does. Part of job creation, historically how we've gotten the economy back on its feet is that the federal government stepped in and supplemented job creation...and here we're sitting around, still talking about the possibility of job creation in some amorphous way."
Tuesday, members of the CPC will kickoff the tour with press conference on Capitol Hill. The first stop on the tour will come at the annual Netroots Nation conference this weekend in Minneapolis. Future stops will take the tour to major cities spanning the country, from New York to Detroit to Oakland, CA.
"Our tour is about letting the American people vent," Grijalva said. "It's about letting the American people tell us, 'we're out of work and you have to do something.' And hopefully that will resound back here in Congress and Congress will take the idea of job creation and how we deal with the idea of the debt ceiling and the deficit and all that and deal with it in a much more realistic way."
The stops will feature members of the CPC sitting down with workers to hear about the employment situation and how it can be improved. Some events will be town halls, some will be rallies, some will be hearings and all will be open to the public. The caucus has been planning the tour in secret for months, and say that it could help shift the focus back to job creation and away from the federal bottom line.
In the web video announcing the tour, the CPC makes it clear it's ready to tap into worker frustrations in states like Wisconsin and elsewhere that have also defined the economic fight over the past year. The official name of the summer sweep is the "Speakout for Good Jobs Now Tour." Take a look: