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.