The 112th Congress of these United States went into session on January 5, 2011. Five months have passed without a JOBS bill, and we aren’t counting the inappropriately titled H.R. 1425 which doesn’t create a single JOB. If there is one economic precept we can all understand, it is that people without jobs spend less and therefore can’t drive a consumer based economy. So –What has the House been doing?
One of their very first agenda items was a ceremonial repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Patients’ Bill of Rights. (H.R. 2) [roll call 14] What would this do for jobs? Repeal would destroy approximately 250,000 to 400,000 jobs over the next decade. [CAP] Besides adding another $125 b — as in billion — in medical spending over the next ten years, and adding some $2,000 to annual family health insurance premium costs, the measure if ever passed in the Senate and signed by the President would eliminate jobs. The unemployment rate in January was 9.0%. [Blmbrg] Who voted in favor of adding more people to the unemployment rolls by approving H.R. 2? Nevada representatives Joe Heck (NV3) and Dean Heller (NV2). Representative Shelley Berkley voted against the repeal.
On January 20, 2011 the Republican controlled House voted to have “certain committees” construct a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act and Patients’ Bill of Rights. That was January, this is June, and no replacement plan has been reported. [roll call 16] From this we can reasonably conclude that the entire exercise was pure political theater having little if anything to do with JOB creation.
As of January 26, 2011 it was more important to House leadership to spend time debating and voting on the termination of the taxpayer option to provide a tiny portion of their taxes to presidential campaigns [roll call 25] than it was to consider a bill to increase employment in the United States.
The first two weeks of February 2011 were consumed with H.R. 1, the GOP budget, which slashed spending for several vital government programs, and had absolutely zilch to do with creating jobs. [roll call 147] Far from adding jobs to the U.S. economy, Moody’s economist Mark Zandi estimated the bill would cost about 700,000 jobs in FY 2012. [CBS]
Surely there was some measure designed to protect or at least ameliorate the economic pain average Americans were feeling? Not only can we answer this question with a definite “NO,” but the GOP lead House passed two bills that would make the situation worse: H.R. 830 terminated the FHA Refinance Program [roll call 171] (Heller voted “aye”, Berkley and Heck voted “no”) and H.R. 839 terminated the HAMP program [roll call 198] (Heller voted “aye”, Berkley and Heck voted “no.”)
Thus by March 29, 2011 the pattern in the Republican controlled House of Representatives is reasonably clear. Bills will be passed which cut federal government spending but no bills will be offered which are directly related to improving the unemployment situation. There is some magical thinking going on. “If we cut spending then there will be more private sector investment in jobs.” No, not necessarily. Before there will be more private sector investment in JOBS there must be more demand for goods and services — and if unemployment levels stay relatively high this obviously depresses demand.
The Magical Thinking pattern continued into April, wherein the House of Representatives took its shot at the Clean Air Act, and wanted to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change. [roll call 230] The mythology from the right wing is that regulations to restrict air and water pollution are “job killers.” The reality is closer to the EPI’s policy review which found that “The combined annual benefits from all final rules exceed their costs by $32 billion to $142 billion a year. The benefit/cost ratio ranges from 4-to-1 to 22-to-1. The combined annual benefits from four proposed rules examined here exceed their costs by $160 billion to $440 billion a year. The benefit/cost ratio ranges from 12-to-1 to 32-to-1.” [EPI pdf]
April gave every appearance of being “Keep Big Oil Happy Month” in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 910 was titled the Energy Tax Prevention Act. What it would do is to amend the “Clean Air Act to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas (GHG) to address climate change. Excludes GHGs from the definition of “air pollutant” for purposes of addressing climate change.” [GovTrack] Call it what one will, the bill for all intents and purposes was to prevent the EPA from regulating the emission of greenhouse gases. Once more the magical thinking came to the foreground — if the polluters and exploiters can avoid government regulation then as if by magic, jobs will be created. Again, not necessarily — all the bills were designed to do was to curb government regulation of the polluters’ emissions. The jobs are supposed to magically appear thereafter.
April showers to May flowers and the House was back trying to eliminate the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, this time with a bill to cut the funding to states which were planning health care insurance exchanges. H.R. 1213 passed on a 238-183 vote [roll call 285] Representatives Heck and Heller voted in favor of this bill, Representative Berkley voted “no.” It’s May and the House is still flogging the ACA but nothing except budget cuts even remotely concerns JOB creation — and that is the case only if one applies the Magical Thinking standard.
The House decided it wanted to cut funding for school based health center construction in H.R. 1214. [roll call 290] That’s right — construction, as in construction jobs. As in the employment sector hurt deeply during the Great Recession. Representative Heller voted in favor of these cuts, Representatives Berkley and Heck voted against them.
During April we were showered by the Ryan Budget, the Medicare eliminating, education cutting, program destructing, Ryan Budget, on which Representative Berkley voted “no,” and Representatives Heck and Heller voted “yes.” [GovTrack] H.Con.Res. 34 is yet another example of GOP magical thinking — cut federal government spending and the debts and deficits will go away! We also know that cutting government spending on education and infrastructure programs makes jobs go away too.
The initial part of May is best known for The Great Abortion Debate, or H.R. 3 in which the House of Representatives pandered to the social conservatives on “the most pressing issue of our times.” With the unemployment rate ticking up to 9.1%, [BLS] the GOP controlled House of Representatives continued its War on Women. Representatives Heller and Heck joined the distraction and voted yes, Representative Berkley voted no. [roll call 292]
By May 11th the House returned to promoting Big Oil interests with H.R. 1231, otherwise to be known as Drill Baby Drill, anywhere. [roll call 311]
On June 16, 2011 the House of Representatives voted on H.R. 2112, the Ag Bill, [roll call 459] “Arguing that the U.S. food supply is 99 percent safe, House Republicans cut millions of dollars Thursday from the Food and Drug Administration’s budget, denying the agency money to implement landmark food safety laws approved by the last Congress. Saying the cuts were needed to lower the national deficit, the House also reduced funding to the Agriculture Department’s food safety inspection service, which oversees meat, poultry and some egg products. And lawmakers chopped $832 million from an emergency feeding program for poor mothers, infants and children. Hunger groups said that change would deny emergency nutrition to about 325,000 mothers and children.” [WaPo] (emphasis added) Representative Heck voted in favor of this bill, Representative Berkley was opposed to it. [roll call 459]
If we look carefully at what the Republican controlled House of Representatives have done from January to June we can see that it falls into some easily discernible categories: (1) Exempt exploiters and polluters from government regulation; (2) Cut programs benefiting women and children; (3) Support the interests of multi-national energy corporations, and (4) promote the interests of large corporations and major banks.
The Magical Thinking persists. If we crater to the interests of major corporations then in the new “business friendly environment” they MAY decide to expand, and the expansion MAY create jobs. They could be expanding right now, sitting as they are on some $9 trillion stashed for future “use.” Those major corporations could be investing in business expansion any minute now — nothing is stopping them, except for the persistent fact that unemployment in this country is now at about 9.1% and people without jobs don’t spend as much money as those who do have jobs.
Without DEMAND for goods and services there is no expansion. Where there are higher levels of unemployment there will be depressed DEMAND. The Republican members of the House of Representatives, still clinging to the vestiges of their long-debunked and discredited Trickle Down Supply Side Economics Hoax, tenaciously adhere to their Magical Thinking about job creation. A bit less magic and a great deal more practicality is in order, and the sooner the better. The House has been in session since January 5, 2011 — where is the JOBS bill?