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Published: 10/14/2011

What now for jobs bill?

BLADE STAFF

Senate Republicans displayed their interest in economic recovery again this week by blocking a vote or even debate on President Obama's jobs bill. The GOP agenda is clear: Deny Mr. Obama any political victory or possibility of economic improvement before next year's presidential election — whatever collateral damage that strategy does to tens of millions of unemployed, poor, and middle-class Americans in the meantime.

The Republicans' obstructionism would be slightly more bearable if they offered a better, or even reasonable, alternative to Mr. Obama's ideas. But they don't. Instead, GOP lawmakers trot out the same old nostrums: more tax cuts and less regulation for business, with no guarantee of job creation in return.

The party's array of presidential candidates offers equally empty gimmicks. This month's featured flavor is momentary front-runner Herman Cain's regressive "9-9-9" tax plan, which would cut taxes for the richest Americans, raise taxes for less well-off families, and widen the deficit — hardly a formula for growth.

By contrast, credible independent economists agree that the President's jobs bill would promote significant, timely economic growth and job creation. It would extend a temporary payroll tax cut for workers — the typical Ohio family would get more than $1,500 in tax relief — and businesses.

Employers who actually hire workers or give raises would be eligible for further tax breaks. Long-term unemployed workers would get extended jobless benefits, along with opportunities for internships and training.

The plan would employ jobless construction workers to make needed — often dangerously overdue — repairs to schools, roads, bridges, and other public infrastructure. Local governments and school districts afflicted by cuts in state and federal aid would get help to retain teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

Mr. Obama notes that congressional Republicans and Democrats have supported each of these proposals in the past. But GOP lawmakers, again demonstrating their class allegiance, object to funding the jobs bill in part with higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank told The Blade's editorial board this week that the Obama Administration plans to split the jobs bill into four pieces and reintroduce them separately, in an effort to salvage at least parts of the measure.

"This is exactly the kind of situation where government spending can make a difference," the secretary said. "Short-term investment is absolutely compatible with long-term deficit reduction."

As they pick the jobs bill apart, Republican lawmakers may be most likely to favor the extended payroll tax cut. The infrastructure provision — which would permit borrowing at record-low interest rates to pay for work that must be done anyway — would have the greatest long-term effects. Both remain worth enacting, as do the other key elements of the jobs bill.

But it appears the President and nation will have to accept what — if anything — Republicans in Congress are willing to give them on the bill. The enduring mystery is why so many Americans who aren't millionaires are willing to accept the GOP's destructive do-nothing response to an economic emergency.



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