On a different planet, perhaps, an incoming Congress would now be plowing its way through the pages of jobs plans, proposals for green jobs projects, a new WPA or two, detailed proposals for rebuilding rotted infrastructure, an urban corps and a rural corps, among many other things.
But this is Earth and the GOP is stronger in Congress than it was last year. On this planet, New Hampshire’s Senator-elect Kelly Ayotte, giving the Republican weekly address on New Year’s Day, declared: “Job one is to stop wasteful Washington spending.”
“This of course, is simply refried conservative beans,” said OurFuture.org’s Robert Borosage Jan. 3. “Not a murmur about the investments vital to any economic growth. Not even the need to rebuild our decrepit infrastructure that even the Chamber of Commerce recognizes is long overdue.”
Labor and its allies have been saying that a campaign to restore the nation’s infrastructure should be a no-brainer because of the hundreds of thousands of jobs created by the restoration work as well as the long-term impact on economic growth.
They point with dismay to how newly-elected Republican governors like New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich are rejecting federal help for job-creating high-speed rail and tunnel projects, as right-wingers push to end almost federal transportation spending.
“It’s no secret that when Republicans take over control of the House this week, they will be eager to flex their newly found muscle,” said Mike Hall, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO. He warned that when they flex that muscle they will “hurt your ability to keep your job, your neighborhood’s ability to recover from the recession and this country’s ability to regain its focus in the global economy.”
Working families could face new problems as the result of GOP attempts to repeal health care and Wall Street reform, slash infrastructure spending, strangle government’s ability to create jobs and kill green job initiatives, he said.
Isaiah Poole, in a report prepared for Campaign for America’s Future, noted that repeal of health care reform would have devastating consequences. Losing the savings created by the health reform bill would increase the deficit by $143 billion, increase the number of uninsured by 30 million people, end free preventative care services and wipe out the requirement that insurance companies devote the bulk of premium payments to health care costs rather than expensive advertising and executive perks.
Another target of the GOP will be Wall Street reform. They want to end the new agency set up to keep banks from rigging credit ratings. They will try to slash budgets for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission so these agencies can’t monitor reckless and/or illegal bank activity. The Republicans seek to eliminate even the office that would protect investors – those who buy stocks. Also on their target list is the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its aggressive chief, Elizabeth Warren.
Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize-winning economist, in a recent column called for a focus on jobs.
“Seriously, what we’re looking at over the next few years, even with pretty good economic growth, are unemployment rates that not long ago would have been considered catastrophic – because they are,” Krugman wrote. “Behind the dry statistics lies a vast landscape of suffering and broken dreams. And the arithmetic says the suffering will continue as far as the eye can see.”
“A rational political system,” he said, “would long since have created a 21st century version of the Works Progress Administration – we’d be putting the unemployed to work doing what needs to be done.”