Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

February 11, 2010

THE HOBSON'S CHOICE OF JOBS BILLS.... The top two members of the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), unveiled the crux of a new Senate jobs bill today, which will apparently generate at last some bipartisan support.

[Baucus and Grassley] released a draft $85 billion plan that would give employers a payroll tax exemption for hiring those who have been unemployed for at least 60 days. The bill would also provide a $1,000 income tax credit for new workers retained for 52 weeks.

The measure, which is scheduled to be reviewed by Senate Democrats this afternoon, also seeks to spur capital investment by extending tax benefits, by providing a federal subsidy for bonds issued for public works projects, and by taking steps to improve highway and transit construction. Jobless benefits and health care coverage for the unemployed would also be extended in the measure.

Now, my expectations have been lowered so much, this seemed encouraging. Congress hasn't passed an important piece of legislation in so long, my first instinct is to feel delighted about progress on a "bipartisan" jobs bill that -- get this -- some Republicans are prepared to let the Senate consider with an up-or-down vote. Imagine that.

But this AP story suggests any enthusiasm about this breakthrough should be tempered by some inconvenient details.

There's a problem with the bipartisan jobs bill emerging in the Senate: It won't create many jobs.

The bill includes tax cuts to please Republicans and its passage would hand President Barack Obama a badly needed political victory. But even the Obama administration acknowledges the legislation's centerpiece -- a tax cut for businesses that hire unemployed workers -- would work only on the margins.

Tax experts and business leaders said companies are unlikely to hire workers just to receive a tax break.

So why would the Senate move forward on a jobs bill that's underwhelming in the job-creating department? It's not a mystery -- in order for legislation to pass, it necessarily has to be made worse. Democrats could write a terrific jobs bill -- which, you know, would create lots of jobs -- but Republicans won't let the Senate vote on it. Republicans will, however, let the chamber vote on a weaker bill that does less good.

Democrats are effectively given a straightforward choice: embrace a good bill that gets killed by GOP obstructionism, or embrace a weak bill that won't do much good but can pass. And here's the kicker: when Americans notice that the jobs bill didn't deliver impressive results, it's the Democratic majority that will get the blame, even though Dems wanted a better bill.

This is the nature of "bipartisan" lawmaking -- giving lawmakers a chance to vote on inadequate legislation. If the Senate could vote on bills, and pass them with majority support, the results for the country would be far better.

But the smallest Senate minority in three decades has decided to break the American policymaking process.

Steve Benen 2:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Another day, another example of our dysfunctional Senate.

Thing is, if/when Republicans get back into power, they'll be able to pass legislation as they please. Because 1) they have several so-called 'moderate' Dems who they can count on to vote with them, and 2) they aren't afraid to use reconciliation (now called the 'nuclear option' by Fox et al.).

It's getting hot in here. Either the Dems man up and take a stand, or they won't, which means that they as a party never really wanted to change things anyway. Thus, we have a one-party system for all intents and purposes.

And history will judge America as a promising experiment in Democracy that fell to the inevitable greed of insular Villagers.

Posted by: terraformer on February 11, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans have broken the Senate -- but Congressional Democrats & President Obama have stood by and let them do it by refusing to eliminate -- or even make a major issue out of -- the filibuster.

Posted by: TheGreenMiles on February 11, 2010 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

terraformer said:
Thing is, if/when Republicans get back into power, they'll be able to pass legislation as they please. Because 1) they have several so-called 'moderate' Dems who they can count on to vote with them, and 2) they aren't afraid to use reconciliation (now called the 'nuclear option' by Fox et al.).

Don't forget 3) the Republicans aren't invertebrates and have fully developed spines (even if the size of their cranial cavities is significantly decreased by excess calcification).

Posted by: SteveT on February 11, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

But the smallest Senate minority in three decades has decided to break the American policymaking process.

The key word here is "minority." They get away with this shit because the Democratic majority and the Democratic White House LET THEM.

Posted by: Gummo on February 11, 2010 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Ya--fucking-hoo!!!

A trickle-down 'jobs' bill that looks, smells, and acts like a tax cut.

God damn the useless Villagers.

Perfectly inept, perfectly useless.

Posted by: neill on February 11, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Or Obama could allow Reid to use reconcilliation but that would mean that Obama just isn't awesome enough to get Republicans to love him.

Posted by: Rob on February 11, 2010 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

So, it's a win-win for business at the expense of works. Company A hires unemployed-for-60-days Schmuck B, holds him in employment just long enough to collect on that tax credit, and them lays the schmuck off, immediately replacing him with Schmuck C.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Company A gets all kinds of tax credits, while the Schmucks get nothing---because they didn't manage their prerequisite 52 weeks.

Here's how this'll break down: If you require the employer to "employ" for 52 weeks, that clock starts ticking at point-of-hire---but if you require the worker to work for 52 weeks, then that clock doesn't start ticking until actual first-day-of-work.

Which, lo and behold, can be several days after point-of-hire.

That $85 billion budgeted for "the plan" will go to the employers; not the employees....

Posted by: S. Waybright on February 11, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Tax experts and business leaders said companies are unlikely to hire workers just to receive a tax break.

The ESSENCE of why failed Supply-Side economics never works.

Posted by: Joe Friday on February 11, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

So why would the Senate move forward on a jobs bill that's underwhelming in the job-creating department? It's not a mystery -- in order for legislation to pass, it necessary has to be made worse. Democrats could write a terrific jobs bill -- which, you know, would create lots of jobs -- but Republicans won't let the Senate vote on it.

Reconciliation.

Reconciliation.

Reconciliation.

Chimpy Bush and the Republican Congressional Majority passed their agenda with 50 votes in the Senate.

Posted by: Joe Friday on February 11, 2010 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Dems should let it pass with no Dem votes. Just vote present. Then it is totally the Repubs, since they are running the place anyway, why not?

Posted by: martin on February 11, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Get ready for the revolving door of employment where everyone who works for a year gets a sixty day weekend.

Posted by: doubtful on February 11, 2010 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, recon and shelving the filibuster rules, in that order, are likely the only avenues Dems have to accomplish anything of merit to run on later this year and the clock is dangerously ticking. Media memes and such about the fantastical and nonsensical idea of “bipartisanship” inconceivably still hold sway with far to many of those who should - admittedly, charitably - know better. But the goal there is merely to muddy the waters and cripple progress, no new news there, to further the bidding, subconscious or otherwise, of their corporate masters. Republicans have even less reason to give any pretense for they absolutely have no desire - other than window dressing - of creating actual jobs this year or most any other for that matter. The higher the unemployment rolls, the higher population of frustrated and emotionally unsteadied individuals from which to prey upon with that most lubricious of snake oils, right-wing populism.

Posted by: jsacto on February 11, 2010 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

The majority of the Senate just does not have the will or desire to get the U.S. back on it's feet economically. The dirty American peasants are of no concern to them.

Posted by: Silver Owl on February 11, 2010 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

If Dems actually could write a really good jobs bill (not a given), then that's what they should do and that's what they should push, to the -- well advertised -- accompaniment of Repub howling and objections. The "well advertised" component would be essential, to expose the bastards for what they are. But, given that Dems couldn't sell water in Sahara...

Posted by: exlibra on February 11, 2010 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Well I guess this means Obama ,Reid, Baucus and Senate would rather Skewer Americans, keep corporate happy than use reconciliation and other tools to make America Better. Reconciliation was used by Bush when he wanted and got what he wanted.
Too Bad Obama is too much above the fray.Too Bad Obama does not care about Americans despite all his bluster and rhwetoric. What's better for the Repuiblicans is what is important.

Posted by: MLJohnston on February 11, 2010 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

And the Republicans are going to continue to obstruct like that until the Democrats grow a pair and use the nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster. Which they won't do because they prefer to blame Republicans for our problems than to actually fix them. Actually excersizing power would require actually taking responsibility. Much better to just say, "I can't help it. It's all their fault."

Posted by: Kyle McCullough on February 11, 2010 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

It's ver important to remember, Republicans do NOT want government to work. Their entire motiff is 'gov't bad'. They have no problem passing water downed ineffectual bills because to them it just proves their point. That's why they didn't care when Bush put cronies and incompetents in charge of gov't agencies because that just proves their point about ineffective gov't.

What's frustrating is so little of the public has clued into the fact that one of the key reasons gov't has been so ineffective over the last 20 years is BECAUSE of Republican efforts to gut it and gum it at all levels. They break it and then say it's inevitable that gov't fails and public buys it and media never challeges them.

Why do you think Republicans are so keen on getting rid of Social Security. It's a program that works. It's well run, it's kept literally 10s of millions of seniors from lossing their homes and out of poverty.

Posted by: thorin-1 on February 11, 2010 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

This bill's more important than most of us think. It's that little phrase "extends unemployment benefits." My conservative friends tease me that this is not really a "Great Depression" because there are no bread lines. The reason there are no bread lines can be summed up in five words -- unemployment benefits and food stamps. Most state unemployment funds are due to run out in the next few months. If Congress doesn't provide the money to extend them we surely will have a double dip recession. So yeah, this bill is a little thin on producing new jobs, but does a whole lot to keep people in their homes and fed. Given the present circumstances surrounding what passes for the Republican Party, this compromise is an important achievement.

Posted by: Russell Aboard M/V Sunshine on February 11, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

You left out the best part: First we will work to ensure that the scope of the Finance Committee package retains its bipartisan character. Second we are committed to timely consideration of permanent bipartisan estate and gift tax reform. Paris Hilton needs a tax break more than Americans need a job? WTF Nelson.

Posted by: Rick on February 11, 2010 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

"But the smallest Senate minority in three decades has decided to break the American policymaking process."

Well since it's broken, there's no reason to keep playing by the rules. Recess appointments, legislation thru reconciliation. We'll start playing by the rules when they do.

Posted by: bdop4 on February 11, 2010 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans are all about not paying their fair share of taxes or getting any real work done!

Posted by: Sam Simple on February 11, 2010 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

But the smallest Senate minority in three decades has decided to break the American policymaking process.

The republicans haven't broken the system. They've found a way to make it work for them due to the weak-kneed democratic majority. Plus they have the conservadems on their side which gives them some muscle. Why lift a finger when you can sit back and watch the majority party do your work for your?

Posted by: CDW on February 11, 2010 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

"The republicans haven't broken the system." CDW @ 5:24 PM.

I have to disagree. The Senate was set up to meet two major criteria: first, provide equal representation for the smaller states at the Federal level and second, to act as a brake when/if the House should pass something particularly irresponsible. Add to those basic presumptions the (false) one that there wouldn't be any political parties and that all members of Congress would put their country ahead of sordid politics and what we have now was bound to occur sooner or later.
Much of the "progressive" legislation of the 19th and early 20th centuries was initiated by Senators from "small" states (Wisconsin, Idaho, Nebraska) because, in the Senate, their vote was just as valuable as the Senator's from New York, Ohio or Pennsylvania. Sometimes even more so.
By returning to the requirements of the pre-1970s filibuster, the Senate would still have the ability to "slow" legislation, but at a cost. There isn't any cost today. THAT'S what the Republicans are taking advantage of.

Posted by: Doug on February 11, 2010 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

I'll second Doug's remarks above. The original purpose of the filibuster was to ensure that the majority couldn't simply cut off debate on a bill and force a vote before the minority had had time to gather enough votes to oppose it or even read it -- particularly in the days before mass communication or speedy travel to and from DC. Segregationists in the 50s and 60s used the filibuster as a loophole to try to stop civil rights legislation, but they had to actually stand up there and read phone books and pee in coffee cans. These days, Republicans and the occasional DINO use it as a routine motion to basically force the Senate to kowtow to their demands on every single piece of legislation.

Time to chuck it, or at least amend the rules so that not ending debate means, literally, not ending debate -- 24/7. Make 'em stand up there and read phone books till they have to go to the bathroom. Literally.

Posted by: jonas on February 12, 2010 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly