WASHINGTON — A trio of House Democrats, including Rep. Keith Ellison and the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, today proposed a sweeping plan to save or create 1 million jobs, chiefly by spending $75 billion over the next two years so local governments and community groups can hire staff. The overall measure would cost about $100 billion over two years.
Ellison compared the measure to massive public works programs begun in the 1930s to combat unemployment during the Great Depression. “I don’t think our generation can do any less,” he said.
“If this was a hurricane, we’d already be there with emergency assistance,” agreed Ed and Labor Chairman George Miller, a California Democrat and close confidant of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The bill suggests itself as a sort of omnibus jobs package, as it includes already approved provisions like $1.18 billion to hire 5,500 law enforcement officers, or $500 million to “retain, rehire and hire” firefighters.
Elizabeth Kautz, mayor of Burnsville and head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said the money would “respond to the needs of ‘Main Street America’” by giving communities the funds to re-hire positions they otherwise couldn’t fund. “We have cut and cut to the point that only bone is left,” she said.
It remains unclear how such an effort would be paid for. Miller said it’s an issue for “leadership to decide,” but suggested the money could come from unspent stimulus funds or simply add to the deficit under the logic that the deficit won’t improve until the nation’s employment picture improves. The latter may, however, be a violation of pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rules recently passed by Congress.
Also unclear is how such a broad plan might be received in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid stripped a bipartisan $85 billion jobs plan down to $15 billion. That plan passed the House by a narrow margin – despite charges from progressives that it didn’t do nearly enough to actually create jobs.
Update: John Kline, ranking member of the Education and Labor committee, signalled that few Republicans would likely back Ellison and Miller’s bill.
“Democrats in Washington are wildly out of touch with the American people,” Kline said in a statement. “There’s no other explanation for their plan to spend another $100 billion we do not have on an initiative that will not promote lasting economic recovery and growth.”
““Keeping states and local communities dependent on the federal government while ignoring private sector job creation will only exacerbate our long-term economic challenges. State governments will never be able to cover their budget deficits if families in their communities are kept out of the job market. Our children and grandchildren simply cannot afford another unaccountable federal spending binge.”
Kline’s remarks were backed by Georgia Republican Tom Price, who added that “spending more money that we simply don’t have just to bolster government payrolls defies all economic logic and brings us no closer to sustainable job growth.”