Political Animal


September 02, 2011 3:15 PM Larson’s plan to improve Congress’ priorities

By Steve Benen

The Murray/Hensarling “Super Committee” will get to work next week, taking its first steps towards trying to find over $1 trillion in deficit savings before Thanksgiving. There are all kinds of problems with the panel — which seems destined to fail anyway — but perhaps none more dramatic than its priorities. In short, the committee is focusing one problem that isn’t urgent (the debt), while ignoring a different problem that’s a legitimate crisis (unemployment).

Following up on an item from a few weeks ago, House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) has a very worthwhile idea intended to improve Congress’ priorities. From his press release sent out this afternoon:

Today, Larson introduced three measures that the Super Committee may choose to pursue that would provide different paths to the same goal — reducing unemployment and addressing our debt:

1) A bill to amend the mission of the Deficit Super Committee, to require the Members to develop both a deficit reduction plan and a job creation plan.

2) A bill to amend the mission of the Deficit Super Committee and add four additional members — one from each party in each chamber — to allow for the extra work being undertaken.

3) A bill to create a parallel Super Committee to focus on jobs, under the same terms as the Deficit Super Committee.

This is good stuff. Larson is basically saying the existing Super Committee can add “create jobs” to its to-do list, or Congress should create a separate Super Committee to tackle the problem that actually matters.

As Ezra Klein noted this morning, “Larson is on the right track here: the political system’s hard-won insights into how to achieve deficit reduction — or at least how to make it more likely — should be applied to jobs, too. That the supercommittee wasn’t designed this way in the first place is evidence of how misplaced Washington’s priorities are.”

This should, of course, be a no-brainer, and the basic structure of Larson’s idea already enjoys broad support among congressional Democrats. And why wouldn’t it? Who would be against Congress focusing on job creation when unemployment is at 9.1% and the economy isn’t adding any jobs?

The answer, of course, is congressional Republicans, who are all for a debt-reduction super committee, but who’ve already balked at the idea of a jobs super committee. A spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently said Larson’s proposal “sounds like a scheme for more of the same failed ‘stimulus’ government spending.”

Anyone wondering why American politics is currently incapable of problem-solving should wonder no more.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Live Free or Die on September 02, 2011 3:29 PM:

    Great idea. Now the ELECTED Dems need to bludgeon the GOP (by name-not say "Congress")if they refuse to implement it.

  • dontcallmefrancis on September 02, 2011 3:30 PM:

    If, perchance, the Repubs gain both houses and or the presidency in the next election cycle watch how fast they suddenly embrace stimulus. All while descrying dems as traitors naturally.

  • skeptonomist on September 02, 2011 4:00 PM:

    "the political system�s hard-won insights into how to achieve deficit reduction"

    Klein can say some very stupid things at times - or is he being sarcastic here? There are some simple and obvious ways to reduce deficits - increase taxes on upper brackets and adopt the sort of healthcare system the rest of the developed world has - but the political system is not considering them.

  • Peter C on September 02, 2011 4:23 PM:

    “sounds like a scheme for more of the same failed ‘stimulus’ government spending.”

    Well, the stimulus had:
    Tax breaks - failed
    Direct Aid to States - worked
    Infrastructure Investments - worked
    Unemployment support - worked

    So, let's forget the failed tax-breaks stimulus and just do the stimulus parts which worked and which have a significant multiplier effect.

  • biggerbox on September 02, 2011 4:23 PM:

    But Speaker Boehner, how could a proposal that focussed on jobs be a scheme for more spending? Haven't you been saying that the path to jobs is freeing up all those 'job creators' from their anxieties about the debt, and burdensome taxes? So, if you're right about that, then a jobs program ought to be right up your alley.


    You secretly admit that none of the deficit and tax nonsense does anything to help unemployment, and that the stimulus actually did, until it ran out?

    Tell me, why DO you, of all people, think a jobs program would imply more government spending??

  • Kane on September 02, 2011 4:36 PM:

    Boehner's response of "failed stimulus" must be addressed at some point. And the sooner, the better. This narrative has gone on for far too long without being exposed. It would behoove democrats to highlight specifically and in detail all of the good things that the 'stimulus' has accomplished. Otherwise, when President Obama offers his Jobs proposal next week, republicans will simply tar and feather it and oppose it as another "failed stimulus."

  • Cranky Observer on September 02, 2011 4:57 PM:

    An unelected and extra-constitutional "super committee" which is even more unrepresentative of the US population is "good stuff"?!? Can't wait to get more of that, I can tell you.


  • Cranky Observer on September 02, 2011 4:58 PM:

    "even more unrepresentative of the US population"

    should be

    "even more unrepresentative of the US population than the Senate"


  • Ed Drone on September 02, 2011 5:45 PM:

    It occurs to me that the existing super-congressoid thingy has a hammer that the jobs one wouldn't -- the automatic across-the-board cuts if they don't do their jobs. What would the across-the-board action be to 'incentivize' the jobs committee? Cuts in unemployment insurance?

    That's the rub. Hell, the existing super-doohickey is bad enough, for if they fail, the slashing starts, and that's what the Republicants want anyway. Add creating jobs to the mission, and you're guaranteed all the bad things and none of the good 'uns.

    Nice try. Come up with a decent 'penalty' for failing, and it might work. It couldn't possibly be worse than the 'real' Congress, that's for sure.