Another month, another weak jobs report. And don’t expect Congress to do much about it anytime soon.
With unemployment stuck above 8%, congressional Democrats and Republicans blasted each other Friday for blocking legislation that would help create new jobs and spark stronger economic growth. Both parties have a number of proposals on the table, but with the campaign now in full swing neither side expects anything to pass before Election Day.
"The president needs to stop betting on his failed policies and start working with Republicans to remove government obstacles to job creation," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "We’ve passed more than 30 jobs bills — he should call on Senate Democrats to stop stalling them."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, ripped the Republicans for deciding "they would rather focus their energy on political grandstanding and empty, partisan exercises that will not create a single job."
Who’s right? It depends on your point of view.
It’s a fair question, and with John Boehner mouthing off about the president betting on "failed policies" and Mitt Romney claiming the President has no plan for economic growth, it’s a perfect opportunity for Democrats to respond by telling Republicans – and America – "We got your jobs bills right here." More jobs legislation that Republicans have bothered to come up with, even.
First, though, let’s put things in perspective. When John Boehner accuses Democrats of stalling Republicans’ so-called jobs bills, let’s remember that this is the same guy who said "So be it" to reports that the GOP’s job-killing cuts would cost thousands their jobs.
When Mitt Romney says the President has not jobs agenda, let’s remember this: Mitt Romney says a lot of things that aren’t true. For example, Romney claim that he has presented a detailed jobs plan while the president has not just isn’t true.
Remember, that if anybody is betting on failed policies, it’s Mitt Romney. Let’s remember that Romney’s policies are essentially George W. Bush’s policies – the same George W. Bush most Americans still blame for the economic crisis that Obama basically inherited.
Romney’s "jobless plan" is the same old job-killing madness that went on under Bush, which resulted in a lost decade of zero net job creation. It’s likely to create more jobs in China than in the U.S. It won’t lower the unemployment rate, and will add thousands more to the ranks of the unemployed – like teachers, police officers, and fire fighters. Apparently, Republicans think losing those jobs is a good thing. That’s why congressional Republicans sat on their hands while state and local governments laid-off thousands, and refused to save those jobs. Is it any wonder a majority of Americans have a low opinion of Republicans in the House?
Maybe someone should remind Romney, Boehner, and the rest of Republicans that while they were busy offering bills that are not about jobs, President Obama handed Congress a comprehensive piece of legislation called the American Jobs Act. It was the centerpiece of his State of the Union address.
If it;s too much to read, here’s what the American Jobs Act would do if Congress ever passed it.
1. Tax Cuts to Help America’s Small Businesses Hire and Grow
- Cutting the payroll tax in half for 98 percent of businesses: The President’s plan will cut in half the taxes paid by businesses on their first $5 million in payroll, targeting the benefit to the 98 percent of firms that have payroll below this threshold.
- A complete payroll tax holiday for added workers or increased wages: The President’s plan will completely eliminate payroll taxes for firms that increase their payroll by adding new workers or increasing the wages of their current worker (the benefit is capped at the first $50 million in payroll increases).
- Extending 100% expensing into 2012: This continues an effective incentive for new investment.
- Reforms and regulatory reductions to help entrepreneurs and small businesses access capital.
2. Putting Workers Back on the Job While Rebuilding and Modernizing America
- A “Returning Heroes” hiring tax credit for veterans: This provides tax credits from $5,600 to $9,600 to encourage the hiring of unemployed veterans.
- Preventing up to 280,000 teacher layoffs,while keeping cops and firefighters on the job.
- Modernizing at least 35,000 public schools across the country,supporting new science labs, Internet-ready classrooms and renovations at schools across the country, in rural and urban areas.
- Immediate investments in infrastructure and a bipartisan National Infrastructure Bank, modernizing our roads, rail, airports and waterways while putting hundreds of thousands of workers back on the job.
- A New “Project Rebuild”, which will put people to work rehabilitating homes, businesses and communities, leveraging private capital and scaling land banks and other public-private collaborations.
- Expanding access to high-speed wireless as part of a plan for freeing up the nation’s spectrum.
3. Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs.
- The most innovative reform to the unemployment insurance program in 40 years: As part of an extension of unemployment insurance to prevent 5 million Americans looking for work from losing their benefits, the President’s plan includes innovative work-based reforms to prevent layoffs and give states greater flexibility to use UI funds to best support job-seekers, including:
- Work-Sharing: UI for workers whose employers choose work-sharing over layoffs.
- A new “Bridge to Work” program: The plan builds on and improves innovative state programs where those displaced take temporary, voluntary work or pursue on-the-job training.
- Innovative entrepreneurship and wage insurance programs: States will also be empowered to implement wage insurance to help reemploy older workers and programs that make it easier for unemployed workers to start their own businesses.
- A $4,000 tax credit to employers for hiring long-term unemployed workers.
- Prohibiting employers from discriminating against unemployed workers when hiring.
- Expanding job opportunities for low-income youth and adults through a fund for successful approaches for subsidized employment, innovative training programs and summer/year-round jobs for youth.
4. Tax Relief for Every American Worker and Family
- Cutting payroll taxes in half for 160 million workers next year: The President’s plan will expand the payroll tax cut passed last year to cut workers payroll taxes in half in 2012 – providing a $1,500 tax cut to the typical American family, without negatively impacting the Social Security Trust Fund.
- Allowing more Americans to refinance their mortgages at today’s near 4 percent interest rates, which can put more than $2,000 a year in a family’s pocket.
5. Fully Paid for as Part of the President’s Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan.To ensure that the American Jobs Act is fully paid for, the President will call on the Joint Committee to come up with additional deficit reduction necessary to pay for the Act and still meet its deficit target. The President will, in the coming days, release a detailed plan that will show how we can do that while achieving the additional deficit reduction necessary to meet the President’s broader goal of stabilizing our debt as a share of the economy.
That’s from the White House Fact Sheet on the American Jobs Act.
That is the jobs bill that the President sent to Congress back in September 2011 – damn near a year ago – and pitched to voters in John Boehner’s own back yard:
the jobs bill the CBO said would reduce the deficit by $6 billion in the next decade, in the Senate version. (Who says we have to choose between job creation and deficit reduction?)
That’s the jobs bill the President is still fighting for today in nine battleground states today. That’s the jobs bill that on the table, still waiting for Congress to act.
Mitt Romney is back to accusing President Obama of having no plan for economic growth:
The president’s policies have not gotten America working again. And the president is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it. I know he’s been planning on going across the country and celebrating what he calls ‘forward.’ Well, forward doesn’t look a lot like forward to the millions and millions of families that are struggling today in this great country. It doesn’t have to be this way. The President doesn’t have a plan, hasn’t proposed any new ideas to get the economy going-just the same old ideas of the past that have failed. [Emphasis added]
The political world has all but forgotten the American Jobs Act, but it remains on the table as Obama’s plan for juicing the economy. If passed in full, the Jobs Act would cut payroll taxes for businesses, double the size of the payroll tax cut for individuals, give aid to states to prevent public sector layoffs, and increase infrastructure spending. All together, the Jobs Act would create 1.9 million jobs over the next year.
Let’s place blame where blame is due, Congress did act. Senate Republicans successfully filibustered it, but eventually allowed the Senate to pass one small piece of it. House Republicans whittled it almost down to sawdust, and then passed what was left.
To be fair, Republicans got their usual assists from depressingly predictable Democratic bickering and cowardice. But most of the blame belongs to the GOP. Republicans should consult a mirror, if they’re looking for someone to blame for inaction on jobs – and the consequences.
Despite public clamoring for action on jobs, congressional Republicans reflexively killed the American Jobs Act, saying it was unnecessary. The House wouldn’t bring it up for a vote, and a Republican filibuster killed it in the Senate. For GOP policymakers, this was a time when Washington should stop investing in job creation and start focusing on austerity — lower the deficit, take capital out of the economy, and everything would work out fine.
As panic sets in after this morning’s brutal jobs report, take a moment to consider a hypothetical: what would the economy look like today if Congress had followed Obama’s lead, responded to public-opinion polls, and passed the American Jobs Act? In 2012, do you think the nation could use those 1.3 million jobs or not?
Are we better off now as a result of Republican obstructionism and intransigence, or would we have been better off if popular and effective job-creation measures had been approved?
Republicans have presented their own bills, most of which were not about jobs and a few that were more about "capital creation" than job creation, but Republicans have blocked more jobs legislation than they’ve presented. (Via The Gavel.)
Meanwhile, House Republicans have voted 15 times against Democratic proposals or efforts to consider proposals – several of which are bipartisan – to create or protect American jobs.
JOBS LEGISLATION BLOCKED BY HOUSE REPUBLICANS
An American jobs effort to end government contracts rewarding corporations that ship American jobs overseas. [Vote 19]
Build America Bonds to Create Jobs Now Act – leveraging public dollars to strengthen the private sector, growing our economy by rebuilding America’s schools, hospitals, and transit projects, supported by American businesses, the construction industry, mayors and governors. [Vote 38, Vote 30, Vote 189]
American Jobs Matter Act – to give preference in federal contracts to U.S. manufacturers that create jobs here at home. [Vote 257]
National Manufacturing Strategy Act, to demand a clear plan to help manufacturers compete, invest in innovation, and put Americans back to work, which passed the House in 2010 with overwhelming bipartisan support. [Vote 279, Vote 721]
Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Technology Act to help ensure the cars of the future are built here in the U.S., by investing in a broad range of near-term and long-term vehicle technologies to improve fuel efficiency, support domestic research and manufacturing, and lead to greater consumer choice of vehicle technologies and fuels. [Vote 310]
Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act to provide our government with effective tools to address unfair currency manipulation by countries like China, which could help create 1 million American manufacturing jobs by leveling the international playing field for American workers and businesses. [Vote 9, Vote 199] This bipartisan bill has 225 co-sponsors including 61 Republicans, yet the Republican leadership has refused to act. This summer, Democrats launched a process to force consideration of the measure; that petition has 175 of the 218 signature needed. The GOP leadership so opposes this measure that it forced the Republican Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who had signed the petition, to remove his signature.
A measure to promote jobs and innovation at home, by prioritizing patent applications from entities that pledge to develop or manufacture their products and technologies in the United States. [Vote 490]
A measure for middle class families, directing the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction to eliminate subsidies for the five largest oil and gas companies, and corporate jet owners, before gutting education initiatives that create jobs, spur growth, and invest in our future. [Vote 676]
A measure to support American Manufacturers by giving priority to any company that uses materials made in America for the construction and renovation of school facilities. [Vote 693]
A measure that places a priority on keeping jobs in America: Protecting the authority of the National Labor Relations Board to order an employer to maintain or restore jobs in the U.S. that would be otherwise outsourced to a foreign country. [Vote 710
A measure to protect at least 10,000 American manufacturing jobs and provide disaster relief to the families and business owners: approving bipartisan disaster aid passed by the U.S. Senate without slashing Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loans that put people to work producing cleaner cars and investing in innovation. [Vote 715]
Where are the jobs bills?
We got your jobs bills right here, where they’ve always been.