Congress is back in session this week which means that we’ll hear more about the economy. Tomorrow the supercommittee will have another public hearing on previous deficit reduction plans. Members will hear from the heads of other efforts to reduce the national debt. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said they are working on a one-month continuing resolution to fund the government past Nov. 19, which is when funding expires—again.
So what is the Republican House of Representatives doing to create jobs?
One of the conservatives’ issues is their “In God We Trust” bill. They need a two-thirds majority vote because it would be brought up under a suspension of House rules. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote, “Instead of addressing any of these critical issues, and instead of working to help American families keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables, we are debating whether or not to affirm and proliferate a motto that was adopted in 1956 and that is not imperiled in any respect.” Passing H. Con. Res. 13 might create a few jobs, however, because the resolution “encourages” that the motto be displayed in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions.
On Thursday the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigative panel will meet to vote on whether to subpoena the White House for documents on the Solyndra case. Conservatives have spent lots of their personal energy on this issue recently, trying to destroy President Obama after the failure of a solar business that lost over one-half billion dollars of government subsidy.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has another jobs bill. He got in trouble for his bill that would require every employer in the country to use E-verify, the federal hiring database to check applicants—even if it’s the business-owner’s mother. Alabama’s punitive anti-immigration bill caused workers to flee the state, leaving its economy in bad shape because farm owners can’t find workers. In response, Smith proposed a second bill, the American Specialty Act which invites migrant workers to come from out of the country into Alabama but strips immigrant farm workers of their current rights.
One loss is the one allowing these immigrants to be eligible for federally funded legal services in the case of a labor dispute. It would push them to have arbitration and mediation clauses in their contracts while not allowing federally funded attorneys to sue on behalf of a worker until after mediation has occurred. In addition, at no time can federally funded attorneys provide legal representation for workers no longer in the country, and workers are allowed in the country for only ten months. Also eliminated in Smith’s bill are mandatory Adverse Effect Wage for workers, guaranteed free housing, and transportation reimbursement; reduced is the “three-quarters guarantee,” a provision that entitles workers to at least 75 percent of the total hours promised in their contract, to 50 percent. Non-documented immigrant farm workers in the country would not be eligible for these farm jobs. Even the Murdoch-owned, conservative Hill thinks that this is a terrible bill.
Currently there are 24 million unemployed in the United States, but Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) have a bill to promote the hiring of foreign college graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) co-sponsored a bill with Smith to eliminate the per-country quotas on employment-based green cards. There are also bills to let in Cuban baseball players, Tibetan refugees, and the children of Filipino veterans of World War II.
One thing that the House ignores is to follow up on a request from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL ) to name a room in the Capitol Visitor Center for Gabe Zimmerman, the community outreach director for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) killed in the January 8, 2011 shooting in Tucson (AZ). Wasserman Schultz has 385 co-sponsors, which makes it pretty much bipartisan, and Transportation Committee members stand behind it. Even with all this support, however, nothing is happening. (This doesn’t fit with job creation, but it matches the House’s penchant for wasting time.)
Doing nothing, however, is better than passing destructive bills. According to the recently updated budget projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, if Congress does not pass any new fiscal policies between now and January 2013, the federal budget deficit will dwindle to just 1.6 percent of gross domestic product—the largest measure of our economy—by 2014, and continue dropping. Similarly, debt as a share of GDP will peak at 73 percent in 2013 and then decline down to 61 percent by 2021.
But the Republicans forge ahead, trying to destroy the country under the pretense of providing jobs. According to a report from Scott Lilly, longtime Capitol Hill staffer and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, the bills that Republicans enacted when they held the country hostage and threatened to shut it down have eliminated 370,000 jobs. Lilly’s report focuses on three major areas of spending cuts: funding for local law enforcement; environmental cleanup of sites where nuclear weapons were disabled and destroyed; and investments into construction, repair, and maintenance of government buildings. Cuts to just those three areas result in the loss of 90,000 jobs–60,000 from direct cuts, and 30,000 additional jobs lost from the secondary impacts of job losses in each community. These weren’t the worst areas, according to Lilly, “but without a doubt they demonstrate the consequences of slashing government spending in a weak economy.”
The House has at least five ill-conceived ideas: union-busting, lowering business taxes, repealing EPA regulations, cutting the minimum wage, and “free trade” agreements. They’ve already passed bills to support the last one. “Free trade” allows corporations to manufacture their products wherever they can find cheap labor and few regulations, in places where workers have no rights and protections, where overtime pay and child labor laws are a dream. The result will push down wages for our country’s workers—already shrunk 10 percent in the last three years—or losing jobs because factories move somewhere else in the world. “The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was primarily touted as a job creator, has cost the US 682,900 jobs, 61% of them in manufacturing,” Daniel Denvir reported.
House Leader John Boehner (R-OH) claims that the Senate refuses to hear 16 of the “jobs-creating” bills that the House has passed. The most recent is a bill that would exchange land in Arizona between the federal government and an international mining conglomerate, Resolution Copper. Proponents claim that this land exchange would create 3,700 jobs. But the government land to be mined for its copper is sacred Apache Indian land, and mining the copper requires 40,000-acre-feet of water every year in a state very short on water. The copper mine would make an estimated $60 billion. The bill was first introduced in 2005 by Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) who was indicted by the Justice Department for several corruption charges, including Renzi’s agreement that he would get the deal passed if part of his business associate’s land was included in the exchange. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said of this bill, “It will rob Native people of their heritage. It will rob local people of their water. And it will rob the American people of their money.”
Bruce Bartlett, an economist who worked in both Ronald Reagan’s and George H.W. Bush’s administrations, disagreed with the conservatives approach to create jobs. “Republicans favor tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, but these had no simulative effect during the George W. Bush administration, and there is no reason to believe that more of them will have any today.” He also disagrees with the myth of creating jobs through cutting regulations. “It’s just nonsense. It’s just made up,” Bartlett said.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks companies’ reasons for large layoffs, agreed with Barlett. It found that 1,119 layoffs could be attributed to government regulations in the first half of 2011 whereas 144,767 were attributed to poor “business demand.” Wealthy corporations are stockpiling tons of cash. The 500 companies of the S&P index have about $800 billion, the most ever according to the research firm Birinyl Associates.
In mid-October, Senate Republicans unveiled their response to President Obama’s jobs plan. (It would have been better to keep the plan under wraps!) “Jobs Through Growth Act” requires a balanced budget, repeals Obama’s overhaul of theU.S.healthcare system, lifts prohibitions on offshore energy explorations, and promotes U.S. trade.
Two-thirds of the nation’s people approve of Obama’s plan to put cops and firefighters back on the streets and teachers back into the classrooms as well as repairing the infrastructure. The Republicans in Congress, however, follow their own path to destruction.
Republicans have three priorities that outrank job creation: defeat President Obama, cut taxes, and reduce government. Their plan of austerity is to impose pain and sacrifice, not help the economy grow and flourish. At the state and local level, officials have been forced to cut spending, scrap public investments, and lay off thousands of public-sector workers. The more states cut back, the worse off they are. The GOP wants the economy exactly as it is: the private sector is left to its own devices; the public sector is shedding jobs quickly; and the only permitted topic of conversation is about debt-reduction. Conservatives hope that the end result will be their re-election because of a worsening economy.
One measure of a society is how it treats its least well off. The United States is failing.