Sens. Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley announced a bipartisan agreement for a “jobs” bill, tracking the earlier draft versions which Sen. Jon Kyl accurately described as not really a jobs bill but an exercise in “extending a bunch of tax policy and related items that we need to do.”
It doesn’t necessarily have awful provisions. Most importantly, it would extend unemployment insurance for another three months, directing benefiting 12 million Americans and further stimulating the economy. Better to pass it than not.
But it simply doesn’t have provisions that would help us recover the 8.4 million jobs that have been lost in the recession, or even make a significant step towards closing the employment gap.
That’s not me whining. Tthe folks behind the main plank of the bill — a payroll tax credit for hiring the unemployed — won’t even make a ballpark estimate of how many jobs would be created.
As I noted yesterday, a jobs tax credit at best is only one leg of a multi-faceted strategy to deal with a massive job crisis.
It’s totally understandable that Democrats perceive a political need to show independent voters they can successfully work across the partisan aisle.
But Democrats also have a political need to enact successful policies.
Note today’s Quinnipiac poll showing the high priority voters put on job creation: “Although only 37 percent rate the President’s efforts to reduce the budget deficit as excellent or good, 71 percent saying reducing unemployment is more important. And voters favor 72 – 22 percent Obama’s $100 billion dollar package of tax cuts for small business and government spending to increase employment. ”
This Senate bill is being touted as a $85B bill, but again, little of those dollars amount to new money for job creation.
Meanwhile, voters are screaming to invest real money in jobs now, not starve the economy by foolishly prioritizing deficit reduction during a recession.
Senate leaders are saying this won’t be the last jobs bill they pass this year. Good.
But there’s not much reason to assume bipartisan support can be garnered for anything remotely close to what’s needed. Bipartisan support was gained here precisely because the bill is so small.
If attracting large numbers of Republican votes to pass anything is considered a requirement, there’s no way the jobs crisis can be addressed.
So Democrats must deliver a tricky, but essential message upon passage of this bill:
This bipartisan bill shows we’re happy to work across the aisle whenever possible, and how little we can accomplish if bipartisan bills are all we do.