Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus has introduced a bill today that is a frankly unadventurous mix of jobs initiatives and tax incentives, with a healthy dose of loophole-closings to make sure that it can be presented as revenue-neutral. (Don’t accuse Baucus of trying to run up the deficit in order to stimulate economic growth and create jobs, even though that’s precisely what a statement released today endorsed by more than 300 economists and civic leaders called for.)
But while it is not the kind of bold response to today’s job emergency that we progressives demand, it presents this challenge to the Senate’s conservatives: Are you so desperate to keep the economy on its knees, to hold it hostage to your political ambitions and ideological rigidity, and to keep the Tea Party (crack)pots boiling in hopes their overheated bitterness will propel you back into control of Congress, that you can’t even say yes to this limited bill?
Don’t hold your breath, obviously, waiting for a favorable answer. We’re talking about the same people, after all, that had House Minority Leader John Boehner retreating with his tanned tail tucked between his legs after making the utterly sensible statement that if he could not continue the Bush tax breaks for everyone, including people making more than $250,000 a year, at least he’d vote to continue tax relief for everyone making less than that amount.
The ashes had hardly cooled on the cigarette Boehner smoked after making that statement that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued his “hell no, you can’t” edict and telling reporters that he’d lead a filibuster to make sure billionaires and millionaires paid not one dime more in earned income tax.
Such is the political environment in which Baucus drops his latest effort to move the jobs debate forward.
The legislation includes:
- Several tax-relief provisions for businesses and state and local governments to help them invest and create jobs.
- Tax cuts for working families, including an extension of a deduction for state and local sales taxes.
- A continuation of an emergency jobs fund for people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits.
- Build America Bonds and other bond and tax relief measures to stimulate infrastructure investment.
- Continued funding for career training programs for Americans who are looking for work.
- Provisions for ensuring continued access to services for seniors, military service members and Americans with disabilities who rely on Medicare.
- Language that would close tax loopholes for wealthy investment fund managers and large corporations.
A statement from the chairman’s office says that “the bill would cut taxes for families paying college tuition, state and local taxes, and property taxes. It would cut taxes for employers to spur research and development and investment, freeing up cash to expand and hire new workers. And the legislation would bolster career training programs and provide wage assistance to help employers hire workers to help our economy grow.”
And yet many of these tax cuts have been opposed earlier this year by conservatives in the Senate, because the Senate majority has refused to support tax breaks for the wealthy that the nation cannot afford in the face of a weak economic recovery.
A Senate bill that devotes billions to direct job creation would be a more appropriate response to an economy that is still not close to producing the 400,000 to 600,000 jobs a month that the nation needs to produce to avert a “lost decade” of economic stagnation. The workers employed through such a program would help stoke the demand that would boost the tax incentives for investment contained in the Baucus bill.
But it appears that only a handful of the Democrats in the Senate are willing to have a fight that pits that common-sense economic policy against Tea Party hysteria and superstition. It’s a fight you might as well have if even Baucus’ middle-of-the-road, deficit-neutral effort to produce jobs is greeted with a “hell no” from the right.