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Draft Of Jobs Bill Reveals Modest Bill With Tax Cuts, Social Safety Net Extensions

The Hill posted a draft of the jobs bill that will presumably get a vote in the Senate this week. There’s no cost estimate attached to it, but this isn’t all that much of a bill, so I’d imagine that it comes in lower than the $80 billion dollar price tag.

Reading through the draft, the big measure here is the job creation tax credit, which comes in two forms – payroll tax forgiveness for new employees, and a business credit for retaining individuals hired in 2010, essentially an incentive to hire now. In addition, there are extensions for unemployment benefits and the 65% COBRA subsidy from the stimulus, allowing laid-off workers to retain their current health insurance at a reduced rate. The third big element relates to spending on infrastructure projects, through both renewing the Highway Trust Fund and some new allocations to do with transportation.

And that’s mainly it. The usual Christmas tree ornaments of attachments to large bills are included, such as various tax extenders from last year, cuts to capital gains taxes for small business, disaster relief, extending the Medicare “doc fix” for seven more months, and low-income housing credits. Finally, adding to the mop-up of earlier bills, believe it or not, the jobs bill includes an extension of provisions for the Patriot Act. It’s on page 125:

(a) USA PATRIOT IMPROVEMENT AND REAUTHORIZATIONACTOF2005. Section 102(b)(1) of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (Public Law 109–177; 50 U.S.C. 1805 note, 50 U.S.C. 1861 note, and 50 U.S.C. 1862 note) is amended by striking ‘‘February 28, 2010’’ and inserting ‘‘December 31, 2010’’.

It’s a 10-month extension, stuck into an unrelated bill.

There are a variety of revenue raisers in here as well, including taxing foreign-held assets and trusts in the US, and the exclusion of “black liquor” created by paper mills from alternative fuel tax credits. The latter was a revenue item in the health care bill, so if that passes here, lawmakers would have to find a different revenue item or lose about $20 billion.

Outside of being a convenient piece of legislation to use for passing unrelated items, I’m not exactly seeing the utility of a jobs bill that has very little in the way of job creation. There’s a tax cut, some necessary extension of safety-net spending, and infrastructure investment that might create a few more construction projects. That’s not even a sliver of the jobs agenda Democrats unveiled last week.

UPDATE: Working not off a draft but Reid’s statement on the floor today, Chris Bowers sees this bill as having substantially less public spending than what passed the House; about $55 billion dollars, to be exact.

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David Dayen

David Dayen