The Simple Way to Pass the Jobs Bill with "Bipartisan" Support

"Once upon a time, you dressed so fine, threw a bum a dime, didn't you?"--Bob Dylan

A bipartisan jobs bill can be passed, quickly, without any need to talk, plead, cajole or make deals with Republicans or recalcitrant Democrats. That is, if the Democratic leadership had even a scintilla of guile that they have yet to display.

Nearly a year ago James Boyce and I suggested ("Will John Boehner Really Say 'Thanks But No Thanks' To Stimulus Funds?", February 19, 2009) that Republicans in the House who had voted against the stimulus plan be challenged on the House floor to declare whether they wanted any of the money in their districts -- with the Democratic majority willing to support whatever their decision was. It was a way, after the vote, of calling their bluff.

Since that time, as the President pointed out at their conference meeting, the very same people who voted against it, showed up at ribbon cutting ceremonies in their districts basking in the glory of a project and jobs that the stimulus bill had funded.

This time, why wait until after the bill -- bruised, revised and made less effective, begging for votes -- makes it through Congress? Instead, write into the bill that the money for jobs, and the tax credits, everything possible that can be geographically limited, will only be spent in districts whose Members of Congress support it, and only in states where at least one of their Senators voted for it.

Of course there will be wailing and moaning by Members and Senators whose lies and hypocrisy will, finally, be exposed. It will be couched in "buying votes" language.

Really? Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has put a hold on all President Obama's appointees unless he gets $45B to projects in his state. Another Republican Senator held up one of the President's nominees until he got money for a building in his state (Kansas). They all put earmarks for their districts and states into bills.

Moreover, the Republicans claim that these jobs bills do not work anyhow. So, one could retort, why the wailing and moaning...according to these people, no jobs are lost since the programs do not work.

With these provisions, the jobs bill can pass quickly -- indeed, the Senate can use reconciliation so there will not even be a filibuster. The wailing and moaning will continue for a week, and then the media will move to another story. In the meantime the jobs bill will pass, and Republicans (and Democrats) who vote against it will have to answer to their states and districts as to why none of the jobs are coming to them.

Or, more likely, "bipartisanship" shall magically flower ahead of the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.



Braley, Michaud want "Buy American" provisions in jobs bill

Populist Caucus Chairman Bruce Braley (IA-01) and House Trade Working Group Chairman Mike Michaud (ME-02) wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer today, urging them to make sure the upcoming jobs bill contains a strong "Buy American" provision. From a press release Braley's office issued:

"Recently, as America has suffered the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, unemployment has risen and is now around 10 percent," the letter reads. "We believe that the shipment of American jobs overseas is a factor in this rising unemployment.  If we are going to pass a strong job creation bill then it only makes sense to include strong Buy American provisions, to further ensure that the jobs created as a result of this legislation are created within the United States.

"We have an obligation to create jobs in America. While some would argue that Buy American is nothing more than a trade protectionist label, it is clear that these provisions would equate to greater investment, and greater job-creation, within the U.S.  In addition, Buy American provisions are perfectly legal under current trade agreements and many other nations use similar mechanisms to protect their domestic manufacturers.  Therefore, we feel that it is entirely appropriate that this language be included in any upcoming job-creation measure, and we believe that this provision is essential to creating and retaining American jobs.

The stimulus bill Congress approved in February contained "Buy American" language despite a massive corporate lobbying effort.

Speaking of provisions likely to be included in the jobs bill, making homes more energy efficient would produce huge collateral benefits, as A Siegel explains at the Get Energy Smart Now blog. Money that homeowners and business owners save on utility bills is money they can spend on other goods and services.

In his speech today, President Obama also mentioned aid to state and local governments in his speech today. That would help state legislators close gaps in the budgets for fiscal year 2011, which begins on July 1 in most states.

Republicans in Iowa (and presumably elsewhere) keep complaining about Democrats using federal transfers to balance the state budget, but they ignore the reality that deep cuts in state budgets are themselves a drag on the economy. State employee layoffs have a ripple effect in the private sector. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently estimated that without additional federal fiscal relief, "states will have to take steps to eliminate deficits for state fiscal year 2011 that will likely take nearly a full percentage point off the Gross Domestic Product. That, in turn, could cost the economy 900,000 jobs next year."

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Weekly Audit: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

By Zach Carter, Media Consortium Blogger

President Barack Obama invited leading economic thinkers to a job creation summit on Thursday to help combat the worst unemployment crisis in decades. The stakes couldn't be higher: If Obama can't build momentum for robust legislation that will create jobs, the unemployment rate could remain in double-digits all the way through 2011.

In Salon, Andrew Leonard highlights some positive comments Obama made at the jobs summit. In an exchange with The American Prospect's Robert Kuttner, Obama said that the long-term budget deficit is an issue, but that the best way to reduce that deficit is to spur economic growth. When the economy is growing, the same tax rates reap greater returns for the government.

If the U.S. dramatically slashes economic support programs to clamp down on the deficit in the short-term, the economy is going to shrink. About two-thirds of the economic growth in the third-quarter of 2009 came from intiatives related to Obama's economic stimulus plan. If we cut back on stimulus, we lose more jobs and make the long-term deficit worse by hampering growth.

We've faced this kind of dilemma before and seen what happens when you focus too much on the deficit,  as Katrina vanden Heuvel emphasizes in a column for The Nation. "In 1937, just as there was some recovery from the Depression, the debt hawks swooped in and there was a return to the deficit reduction model," vanden Heuvel writes. "Things went south again. We don't need a repeat of that."

So Obama doesn't want to attack the deficit at the expense of jobs, which is good. But it's problematic that the President is still at the summit stage on the most politically pressing issue for Democrats, as Terence Samuel explains for The American Prospect. If the labor market doesn't start getting better soon, voter dissatisfaction with Obama's economic platform will impact other critical policy initiatives, from health care to climate change.

"The president is up against an unpredictable clock," Samuel writes. "With his approval rating hovering around 50%, he can't be sure how long Democrats in Congress will stick with him on anything if there is not some noticeable improvement in the jobs picture soon. The urgency on the job situation is not lost on Democrats in the House and Senate who must defend the seats of 18 Democrats in 2010."

Most of the pressure Obama now faces is to create jobs, not just save them. That's because his stimulus helped get the unemployment rate under control--we're still losing jobs, but not as fast as we were in January. But as Aaron Glantz notes for New America Media, the risk of heavier job loss is still present.

State governments are up against very difficult budget constraints, thanks to tax losses related to widespread layoffs and foreclosures. If they don't get help from the federal government, states will be forced to cut expenses, which means shedding more jobs. Glantz highlights a recent conference call with AFL-CIO leaders who warned that state and local governments could be forced to cut up to one million jobs in 2010 if Congress and President Obama fail to enact a major jobs bill.

David Moberg envisions an ideal jobs bill for Working In These Times. We need a major aid package to state governments, modernizing our schools and transportation network, a public-sector job program to fund important work in our communities, and a tax credit for companies that hire workers. The whole thing would only cost $400 billion and would create 4.6 million jobs. That could be enough money to move unemployment out of crisis-mode. Right now, about 15.4 million workers are out of a job. Half those workers have been put out of work over the course of the recession. Creating 4.6 million jobs would make an enormous difference.

And while the $400 billion price tag may sound like a big number, it's a drop in the bucket compared to our $9 trillion fiscal deficit. Going back to The Nation: As vanden Heuvel notes, the whole package could be paid for with a modest tax on risky Wall Street securities trading.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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Blue dogs

The era of bipartisanship is underway.  The senators from Maine and Pennsylvania are holdovers from the old approach to involving rebublican viewpoints in the definition of legislative outcomes. The new way of working together is rapidly evolving inside the Democratic Party.  The republican moderates in both houses are being knocked off in their own primaries and then losing the general elections to those new members who are forming the "Blue Dog " caucus.  These are the folks who represent the constituencies that sent moderate republicans to Congress and their concerns and values have not changed much.  They have no more use for the inflexible and often radical right wing republicans than do the rest of us.  There was some indication toward the end of the stimulus debate that the White House is aware that these "Blue Dogs" represent the concerns that need to be made a part of the governing process.  The radical and inflexible right does not bring much of use or interest to the national debate and the urgency for reasonable responses that are required.  The key to strong support from the left and right center engaged creatively with the rest of the Democratic majority can lead to the kind of progressive and inclusive governance President Obama is able to lead.    

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