President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress Thursday has been described as challenging, aggressive and overtly political.

It was all of those things, as well as something else: It was about time.

You don’t have to like the president’s tone, or even all of his proposals, to agree with his overarching message: The nation can’t wait 14 months for another national election to sort out deep philosophical differences about the size and scope of government.

We are in an economic crisis right now that calls for quick action. The president has proposed a plan that is made up of elements traditionally supported by members of both parties, paid for with spending cuts to future programs and tax hikes for high-wage earners.

Obama can only recommend this plan. Congress has to act. Unfortunately, the initial reaction we heard from many in Congress, including members of the Maine delegation, was less than promising.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins said that the president didn’t go far enough in calling for regulatory reform. Her Republican colleague Sen. Olympia Snowe said she would continue to oppose raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans because of the effect it would have on the small businesses that file their taxes on individual returns. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat, said he didn’t like the part of the package that calls for the passage of foreign trade agreements. Only Rep. Chellie Pingree, who will likely object to the budget cuts Obama said he would roll out later, was positive.

As for the complaints, we agree with some of them. We support regulatory reform and we don’t like tax increases any more than congressional Republicans do. We share Snowe’s concern about the effect of tax hikes on small business owners.

But fixating on what’s wrong with the president’s plan is a recipe for doing nothing and we have seen where this leads. The unnecessary political crisis Washington inflicted on itself this summer worsened a bad economy. A long, unproductive debate on this jobs bill will not make things any better.

Members of the House and Senate should focus on what’s good in this package — payroll tax cuts, speeding up road and bridge construction projects and assistance to unemployed workers, among other elements — and pass a package that the president can sign.

The differences between the parties will still be there in 2012, so there will be plenty of political issues to run on.

But it is still 2011, so the focus now should be on getting our stalled economy moving.