President Barack Obama has proposed a $445 billion jobs bill focused on encouraging employment in construction, education and other areas. It would also further cut payroll taxes. Is it a panacea? No. Is it a botch with nothing worthwhile? No.

Late in his storied career, but very early in that of the team he was then managing (the New York Mets), Casey Stengel, responding to the futility that led to a 40-120 season, bemoaned, “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Were he still here and casting a critical eye on Washington, D.C., the “Ol’ Perfessor” might ask much the same question — in much the same state of frustration.

With the national unemployment rate stuck north of 9 percent and a slide back into recession a very real threat, lawmakers continue to focus on how to extract political gain from the economic pain, rather than how to mitigate it.

President Barack Obama has proposed a $445 billion jobs bill focused on encouraging employment in construction, education and other areas. It would also further cut payroll taxes.

Is it a panacea? No. Is it a botch with nothing worthwhile? No. In the past, it would be a starting point; both parties would pare away some elements, add others and alter as many as they deemed necessary. It was called compromise. That was, however, the past.

Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia declared the bill “dead on arrival,” an assessment that is about as astute as it is helpful. Republicans, in full campaign mode themselves, accuse the president of proposing the bill as his own campaign tactic.

In the Senate, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada proposed paying for the bill by adding a 5.6 percent tax on incomes over $1 million.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky claimed that move was intended “not to make it more effective at growing jobs, not to grow bipartisan support. No, they want to overhaul the bill to sharpen its political edge.”

Laying aside the fact that there’s no bipartisan support to grow, he’s got a point. There is entirely too much politicking and too little honest effort at legitimate legislating on all sides. Unfortunately, there is also little incentive to change course.

Obama has turned the other cheek in courting congressional Republicans so many times that he has run out of cheeks to turn. Republicans seem to believe a floundering economy will help their elective chances in 2012, and they show very little passion for pursuing answers.

All of which leaves little cause for optimism among those out of work, barely hanging onto work or working two or three part-time jobs. That is, feeling a bit like Stengel in one of his fits of exasperation:

“Don’t cut my throat,” he once said. “I may want to do that later myself.”

-- Messenger Post (N.Y.)