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Congress’ score on job creation: Zero

What concerns American most today? Very simply: Jobs! By a whopping margin, all the polls show this to be true. The most recent CBS News poll showed that “jobs” are the top priority of 54 percent of all Americans. Way behind in second place was the national debt (6 percent); and as an interesting side note, at 2 percent was “moral/family values.” Moreover, “jobs” was largely what the 2010 election was all about, so now, a year later, what have those who were elected on this critical issue done to make things better? I would suggest their score is zero.

Thus far there is one comprehensive jobs bill on the table: the Obama American Jobs Act. Like it or not, it is at least detailed, and immediate. The president’s bill is a mix of public-works spending and temporary tax cuts, intended to respond to what President Barack Obama calls an economic crisis and an emergency. So, what has been the congressional response?

First, in the Senate, Republicans would not even permit a vote on the bill or even parts of it (which would at least allow some debate and possible compromise). They employed their old procedural tactic, which would require the bill to obtain 60 votes. Aware that simply rejecting the Obama plan would cause criticism, they then came up with their own bill, neatly named: “Jobs through Growth Act.” The plan is a hackneyed regurgitation of old, failed and ideological ideas, which certainly would create no new jobs now, and likely none later.

The crux of the plan includes steps to require a balanced budget, repeal Obama’s health-care plan, lift prohibitions on offshore energy exploration, and promote U.S. trade. Summing up this approach was Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who stated: “This is a pro-growth proposal to create the environment for jobs, and that’s as opposed to the short-term, sweetener approach of the Obama administration that simply hasn’t worked.” But, it is precisely the “short term sweetener approach” that is urgently needed now!

A different picture in the House
Frankly, the Republicans in the Senate were not going to get much done anyway because the Democratic majority is pretty much wedded to the Obama plan. However the situation in the House is different, and that is where the GOP majority has an opportunity to propose serious job-creation legislation. But here again, the score is zero. They too have proposed legislation they label “job creation,” but none of these bills have passed, and again they are rehashed Republican ideas that have no history of creating new jobs. Among them are 11 bills to ease regulations on business and make it easier to drill for oil and gas. None has even gotten to the Senate.

Given that these representatives were elected to pass job-creation bills so needed by our country, what has the House been doing this past year? Well, mostly its members have occupied themselves with a variety of social, moral and value issues that concern (as noted above) only 2 percent of the American people. The Congressional Research Service (CRS, a nonpartisan arm of Congress that tracks such things) and OpenCongress (a nonpartisan service that reports legislative actions) offer an appalling look at our current Congress’ activities.

According to OpenCongress, members of Congress have introduced 44 bills on abortion (one just the other day reaffirming existing legislation on this subject). 99 on religion. 71 on family relationships. 36 on marriage. 67 on firearms and gun control. 552 on taxation — and though most were to reduce taxes, there have been no significant changes on tax law with all the time invested and bills introduced. And finally a massive 445 bills on “government investigations.” There is a category labeled “job creation legislation” originated by Congress, and tracked by OpenCongress. In that category it reported: “No bills at this time. The Congressional Research Service has not tagged any bills in the current session of Congress with this issue area.” If ever the analogy of “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” was apt, this is it!

This discussion started with a poll showing the issue that most concerned Americans. The issue that is having profound effects on the lives of American families. The issue that needs most immediate remediation. In a word: jobs. To that, what has Congress done to find fast, cogent solutions to this issue? Also in a word: nothing. While acknowledging that it takes “two to tango” to get bipartisan legislation passed, continuing to filibuster any new jobs legislation in the Senate, and refusing to initiate any new jobs legislation in the House means no new meaningful job-creation solutions will be forthcoming from the Congress.

So, we end with another poll, the recent Rasmussen poll rating the 112th Congress. Those who rated Congress “good” or “excellent”: 9 percent.

Myles Spicer of Minnetonka has spent his business career as a professional writer and owned several successful ad agencies over the past 45 years.

Correction: A previous version of this commentary identified Sen. Portman’s state as Oregon. It is Ohio.

Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/31/2011 - 07:01 am.

    What the US does well is to allow entrepreneurs to flourish. In today’s competitive world, for the US to retain its place as the incubator of new ideas and technology and the companies that exploit them, it must open its doors to the entrepreneurs of the world, by reforming its immigration laws and creating a bureaucratic environment that welcomes new businesses. It should actively seek to retain the foreign graduates of its top schools and encourage them to exploit their ideas here. It should actively encourage more of its own talented young to enter productive professions (i.e. not finance or law ).

    So please, no more monuments to the power of central government. That is not America’s way. We are much more the home of Edison’s light bulb and Jobs’ Macintosh than Hoover’s dam. We can still make the eyes of a young Indian or Chinese engineer gleam with visions of a successful new start-up. That is America’s niche; we must exploit it to the hilt.

  2. Submitted by John Olson on 10/31/2011 - 08:57 am.

    Congress’ score on getting *anything* done: zero.

  3. Submitted by myles spicer on 10/31/2011 - 09:42 am.

    Re Olson…you are certainly right about that; and the American public’s polling reflects that.

    Re Schulze, certainly we rely on the private sector to drive capitalism. But, there are times in our history when government can step in to stimulate growth and/or mitigate the pain of those unemployed. Such a time is now! And Obama recognizes this by calling it “an economic emergency”

    Such actions by the government are not mutually exclusive from the private sector ALSO acting…but where are they? With low taxes, and hordes of money, the private sector has not been adding the jobs needed to take us out of this economic morass.

    The things you propose are good and useful, but are long term solutions that need time to gain traction. To the currently unemployed, losing their homes, unable to feed their family, losing their life savings, or in great economic distress — they do not have the luxury of a long term solution. They are relying on government (Congress) to offer some relief NOW. Unfortunately, this Congress is mired down in idealogy rather than action. And that is pathetic for those in need.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/31/2011 - 09:43 am.

    Obama’s “short term sweetener approach”, aka Porkulous III reeks of the desperation of a man in way over his head, treading water mightily in hopes that a rescuer, in the form of a successor, will come along in 2012.

    The “Jobs through growth act” may well be a hackneyed regurgitation of old, failed and ideological ideas, and it may not create new jobs now, or later, but promoting trade, easing business stifling regulations and developing needed energy resources is a description of what the US Constitution empowers Congress to do.

    Leftists have been grasping for more governmental power since FDR, and they’ve made some advances in that agenda, but as of today this is still a Republican Democracy built on free market capitalism. It is not within the government’s power to “create jobs” in the private sector.

  5. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 10/31/2011 - 09:52 am.

    Myles,
    I think you miscopied your DFL talking points memo – Rob Portman is from Ohio.
    You also forgot to use the term “shovel ready.”

  6. Submitted by myles spicer on 10/31/2011 - 10:48 am.

    Well, I stand corrected — Portman IS from Ohio (but what the heck, Ohio, Oregan, they both start with an “O” so, that should be close enough Ron).

    Well, no, I have not seen a DFL “talking points memo” but I do like the idea of “shovel ready” So I will add it here:

    “In addition to to being comprehensive, the Obama plan is virtually ‘shovel ready'”.

    Yes, that does add something to the article. What is lost in this “political speak” of comments, is the fact that this country needs jobs…there are ways to stimulate that activity…and we have a Congress that is caught up in the same entanglement of “gotcha” that is all to prevelant now, and takes us nowwhere for solutions.

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/31/2011 - 10:52 am.

    “With low taxes, and hordes of money, the private sector has not been adding the jobs needed to take us out of this economic morass.”

    Leftist Solution? Porkulous III

    Observe

    With low mortage interest rates, and hordes of available money, the housing and banking sectors have not been adding the numbers of low income people to homeownership needed to take us out of this crisis.

    Leftist Solution? CRA combined with Freddie and Fannie.

    Even a child could see the pattern of FAIL here.

  8. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/31/2011 - 01:27 pm.

    The primary role of congress is to provide a checks and balance system for the President. To democrats, the role of government is to manage society and your life and so the role of congress is to pass more and more laws to do that. To a democrat, a congressman or woman who writes a lot of new laws is considered an excellent congressperson.

    To a conservative, every new law the government passes gives them more power and you less freedom. And so to us, a “do-nothing congress” is a compliment. Which is why you’ll never hear us object when liberals label them as such.

  9. Submitted by Scott Andrew on 10/31/2011 - 02:41 pm.

    Even if Obama’s jobs bill passed, would it have been able to create sustainable job growth? Over half of the bill’s spending was payroll tax cuts that many employers don’t believe would have led to more hiring (http://eng.am/nQFWgQ). That leaves about $200 billion in stimulus spending for infrastructure, rehiring teachers and first responders, and unemployment reform (http://eng.am/qJQ8jW).

    What we need is actual long term restructuring to the tax code and investments in infrastructure and education. We need the leadership to put forth a comprehensive plan to promote sustainable job growth.”

  10. Submitted by myles spicer on 10/31/2011 - 03:11 pm.

    Dennis
    I kind of agree with your analysis of the two parties, however I disagree with your “semantics”.
    I do not think democrats want government to MANAGE your life — but they are activists in finding ways government can make society better. We all agree we need governing in a civilized society, and in the 21st century, the best societies are now a cooperative effort between government and private activity.

    Nor can I agree, Congress was formed to be a check and balance in our three prong system. In fact, all funding (and of course all legislation) starts with Congress — it is not a passive branch as you suggest, but to me is one has the capability to be activist.

    How active is where we would disagree, but there have been times in our history when Congress did some magnificent things to make us a better nation. Among them Social Security and Civil Rights. And the programs proposed by FDR to raise us from the depression. His actions gave families jobs, improved our infrastructure, and gave us hope. It is similar to conditions today.

  11. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/31/2011 - 07:50 pm.

    It looks to me like the basic error Mr Swift and Mr. Tester make is to confuse money with economic activity or GDP.

    If the government takes money from one place and sends it to another, that doesn’t change the money supply very much. But the amount of money in the economy is not what we’re interested in here. We are interested in economic activity, or GDP: people spending money to buy goods and services. We’re interested in how much spending and working is going on, not how much money there is. And when government spends money to buy goods and services, it can certainly increase the amount of economic activity, especially if other individuals and businesses aren’t doing much spending.

    All economic activity, not just government spending, can be seen as taking money from one place and putting it down in another.
    It is a comically absurd argument. The folks who don’t get this simply assume that savings always equals investment, oblivious to what’s happening around them. It’s not just academic. It’s a tragic waste of human potential.

  12. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/01/2011 - 08:12 am.

    “And when government spends money to buy goods and services, it can certainly increase the amount of economic activity, especially if other individuals and businesses aren’t doing much spending.”

    lol. When I spend money, I’m taking it from my pocket and putting it into your pocket. That is economic activity.

    The government doesn’t have any money of its own. When government spends money it’s taking it from your left pocket and putting it into your right pocket. That’s a charade.

  13. Submitted by myles spicer on 11/01/2011 - 08:30 am.

    I applaud the Schulze #11 comment. Yes “moving money” from top to bottom is the best thing that can happen to a robust Capitalism. Capitalism is clearly a consumer-driven, bottom up economic system, and the more disposable income the majority of cosnumers have, the more robust the system.

    That is essentially what the Obama plan does — not a long term solution, which is STILL needed, but some fast moving pump priming to engergize the economy. Top economists (Paul Krugman and Robert Reich among them) would hardily endorse Schulze’s analysis.

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