With Congress furiously negotiating as the clock ticks towards government shutdown, the focus of the 2011 budget talks is almost all on how much spending to cut -- precisely what our job-starved economy doesn't need right now.
But now that House Budget Chair Paul Ryan has responded to the President's 10-year budget plan with one of his own, we know have two dramatically different visions of the country from which to choose.
And on the immediate priority of jobs, it's no contest. Because the Republican budget barely even tries to compete.
As I've noted previously, construction industry leaders have estimated that the President's proposed infrastructure investments would create 15 million new jobs, two-thirds of which would not be construction jobs. And that doesn't even count the plans to hire 100,000 new teachers, generate renewable energy and expand broadband access.
In response, Rep. Ryan makes the assertion that his budget "creates nearly 1 million new private-sector jobs next year, brings the unemployment rate down to 4 percent by 2015, and results in 2.5 million additional private-sector jobs in the last year of the decade."
But that assessment is based on what independent source? Why, none at all. It is only sourced to the right-wing Heritage Foundation.
And what does Ryan claim will create these jobs? Why, more tax cuts for corporations and multimillionaires of course!
Because that worked wonders when President George W. Bush tried it -- if by "worked" you mean established the "Worst Track Record On Record" according to the Wall Street Journal.
Ryan offers nothing more than rehashed, debunked conservative boilerplate, such as "marginal [tax] rate reductions increase output, mainly by letting people keep more of each dollar they earn" and that we need to "lessen incentives for U.S.-based multinational corporations to avoid high U.S. taxes."
The only other attempt Ryan makes to pretend his budget includes a jobs agenda is to claim that weakening regulations on fossil fuel companies, and cutting investment into clean energy -- which Ryan characterizes as "expensive corporate-welfare funding directed to the president’s allied industries" -- would create jobs. But it is mere assertion, without any independent confirmation.
Meanwhile, the Economic Policy Institute warns that the radical cuts in the Ryan budget would "cost the economy hundreds of thousands (and perhaps millions) of jobs over the next five years." (This article from EPI economist Ross Eisenbrey explains how Heritage "cooked the books" to get its "incredible" employment forecasts.)
If you don't want to accept the quick conclusion from EPI, that's fine. Feel free to wait for an independent economist to confirm Ryan's numbers. And wait. And wait. And wait.
Certainly, the President's budget could do even more to create jobs, as the Citizens Commission budget plan would. We don't need to accept the President's plan as the maximum that can be done to create jobs.
But we do have one budget that shows how public investment can create millions of jobs. And one budget that fails to show how radical cuts to public investment, and perpetual tax cuts to the wealthy can create any jobs at all.
Take your pick.