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Piecemeal Strategy on American Jobs Act Starts With Aid for States

The Obama Administration and the Senate are proceeding on a piece-by-piece strategy with the American Jobs Act, which failed a cloture vote on the motion to proceed last week. First up is a $35 billion bill to help states with fiscal imbalances:

President Obama is returning to the road this week to press Congress to start passing the American Jobs Act, beginning with $35 billion for states to put teachers and first-responders to work.

But White House officials said Sunday that Obama will not be sending a separate piece of legislation to Congress, referring questions about the process to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) […]

The first piece Obama wants is $35 billion in aid for states to prevent the laying off of or support increased hiring of teachers, police officers and fire fighters, Earnest said.

That would be the best thing you could do right now, as it would stop the bleeding from state and local governments. The economy has lost well over 500,000 public-sector jobs since 2008. If the public sector jobs were at the same rate as they were in 2009 – and keep in mind that the population has grown since then – the unemployment rate would stand at 8.4%, a much more manageable number. Preventing more layoffs in this sector, the worst-performing right now, is an urgent need. That money would have a great bang for the buck and would be immediately implemented. There’s no environmental impact review on aid for states. No lag in finding contractors for bidding. It’s as close to direct job creation – or in this case, direct job preservation – as you can get.

And it would be paid for by a tiny surtax on millionaires.

Now, Republicans aren’t going to agree to this. They’re not going to agree to the next job creation idea. Or the next one. They are going to block every permutation of the American Jobs Act. And then in 13 months we’ll have an election on which party can best deliver positive results on the economy. This election will be colored by the past four years of perceived Democratic and Obama Administration results on the economy. The Administration is trying to make it a choice between the ideas embedded in the American Jobs Act and the endless obstruction of those ideas. That’s what the President did today in North Carolina.

Substantial political science research shows that lived experience bears out. But Obama has gained on the question of who is better to handle the economy (relative to Republicans) in recent weeks simply because he’s been pounding on the American Jobs Act. We’ll see how that translates into votes. But I don’t see a downside. The Administration should use the means at their disposal to actually improve the economic situation in parallel to all this, of course.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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