It is called a jobs bill, but it is really a snow job. What the Senate passed Monday may have been a victory for bipartisanship, but it was a slap in the face of the 25 million Americans who need jobs.
The Senate voted yesterday in favor of a $15 billion bill whose main feature is a tax break for companies that hire unemployed workers this year. What's wrong with that?
1) It's easy to game the system. Even in this depression, hundreds of thousands of workers are hired every month, while a similar number are laid off or quit. Most of the money will be a free gift to companies which would have hired workers any way.
2) It's lousy economics. Families have stagnant or declining income and are still unwinding excessive debt. If Joe's diner is able to expand successfully and hire workers, then Fred's diner will shrink and lay off workers, because there is no net increase in people dining out.
3) It's chicken feed. To have a real impact on the economy, the government should be spending between $400 billion and $1 trillion this year to make up for the collapse in private spending and investment. According to the New York Times, the sponsors say the bill will create "tens of thousands of new jobs." That's fewer than the jobs needed each month just to keep up with the growth in the labor force.
The bill was advanced when Republican obstruction blocked consideration of real action on jobs. Even this bill -- a package of business tax cuts with "jobs bill" wrapping paper -- received only five votes from Republicans, who want even more business tax breaks.
It appears that Democratic strategy is to bring up a series of smaller bills instead of one large package.
The Hill quoted Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin saying "This is not the end of our debate on creating jobs through legislation this year, it's the beginning of that debate." Good luck to them, but they better move fast.
Notices have already gone out to 1.2 million people will lose their unemployment benefits on March 1, the first of five million who will be denied before summer. And in every state capitol, legislators are planning deep layoffs and cuts in essential services to deal with the end of stimulus funding at the end of the year. These are real emergencies affecting literally millions of people.
The Coalition on Human Needs has called for people to flood the Senate with phone calls. "Tell them: Act NOW to pass a full-year extension of unemployment benefits... and more aid to states for Medicaid, education, and other vital services and jobs." Call 1-888-460-0813 and ask for your Senator's office.