Government isn't capable of wholly eliminating the wholesale joblessness that has stranded 14 million Americans without work in the wake of the worst global financial cataclysm and recession since the Great Depression. But Congress can boost recovery by adopting carefully crafted programs and targeted tax cuts. With Americans in fear of a double-dip recession fueled by slow growth at home and more severe crises in the euro-zone and Japan's troubled economy, it's time for Congress to step up to that responsibility. The program laid out by President Barack Obama Thursday would be a huge step in the right direction. But it must be allowed by Republicans whose confessed and contrary priority is to sabotage and defeat Obama.
The president charted a compelling case for his proposed American Jobs Act and its cost-effectiveness. The program calls for several steps. One would cut federal payroll taxes in half for American workers and small business owners. That would significantly boost consumer spending which is so vital to economic recovery, and spur job growth. Small business owners would qualify for additional tax credits if they hired veterans or people out of work for at least six months.
Targeted grants to states totaling $35 billion would further advance purposeful hiring and consumer spending by preventing lay-offs of 280,000 teachers and the hiring of many more, along with higher levels of jobs for first-responders, police officers and young people. Additional grants to states of nearly $50 billion would enhance economic momentum by boosting spending on public infrastructure for a broad range of specifically needed road, bridge, transportation and housing repair projects, and for repair or improvements to some 35,000 schools.
Aided by new investment tax credits for business, the Jobs Act would also promote hiring and consumer spending by spurring broader production and hiring by manufacturing and service industries. Overall, economists estimate, the resulting growth wave could add several million new jobs and cut unemployment by around 2 percent. That would simultaneously boost tax revenue and help offset the cost of the Jobs Act.
There also would be a concerted effort to cut red tape and to promote state and local projects based on broadly acknowledged needs and economic impact. The bill, moreover, would include efforts that have traditionally drawn bipartisan support and, in some case, specific Republican plans. It would, for example, build on a Georgia Republican program to allow unemployment benefits to people who participate in temporary work to hone their job skills while seeking permanent jobs.
Republicans and Democrats alike have long affirmed and supported such programs to broadly stimulate job and economic growth in difficult times. But Republicans' far-right ideologues now seem fixated on the false notion that government can do nothing right, except for cutting regulations that assure a modicum of necessary environmental integrity and worker safety and fair-play.
The benefits of Obama's unexpectedly robust $447 billion Jobs Act for targeted tax cuts and job promotion would give the typical working family an additional $1,500 tax cut next year. It would also mandate offsetting cuts in future spending -- and, if Obama has his way, corporate and high-end income tax reform -- to pay the temporary costs for boosting the economy to a higher level, and to further reduce deficit spending.
But as sound as it is, Obama's American Jobs Act can't pass without a helping hand from Republicans. They must decide whether to live up to their public responsibility to help lift jobless Americans and the American economy out of trouble, or to continue on their current partisan path to sabotage the economy just to weaken Obama politically in next year's elections.
The correct choice should be obvious. The public duty of both Democrats and Republicans is to help, not hinder, sound economic policies to promote the common public good. But as Obama emphasized, that will take bipartisan political will and a cooling of the partisan attacks.
"The question," he asserted, "is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy." It's now up to Republicans to make the right decission.