House Democratic leaders contended Tuesday at their first Capitol news conference after the August break that in order to reduce the deficit, it’s necessary to first create jobs.
“As we have laid out in legislation that has been introduced, the fastest and most effective way to reduce the deficit is to put America back to work,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), one of the three House Democrats serving on the joint debt supercommittee.
Van Hollen, who made the remarks at a news conference with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and other members of the Democratic leadership, argued that the most recent Congressional Budget Office report states that for every 1/10 of one percentage point increase in the U.S. gross domestic product, the deficit is reduced by $310 billion.
“Now, they project over the next 10 years that average GDP, average growth of the economy will be about 2.9 percent,” he said. “What those numbers tell you is that if you got that growth rate up by half of one percent, you would actually reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion, which is the target laid out in the legislation before us.”
The argument that job growth and deficit reduction are linked is one that has been made by both parties in recent weeks.
“For months, Majority Leader (Eric) Cantor (R-Va.) has made the case that economic growth is a shared solution to both the jobs and the debt crisis,” Cantor’s spokesman Brad Dayspring said Tuesday. “That means that job creation is absolutely necessary to reduce the debt crisis, and we welcome Democrats joining us in that approach.”
In a memo to House Republicans last month, Cantor noted that the jobs and debt crises “are not mutually exclusive, but they are equally dangerous. That is why it is absolutely critical that as policies are developed to overcome each, we consider their impact upon each other.”
The key difference between the parties — and a likely focus of the debate as the 12 member debt supercommittee begins its work this Thursday — is how best to achieve the goal of growing the economy.
House Democrats on Tuesday promoted an agenda that includes spending on infrastructure and other projects in an effort to boost jobs. That short-term spending, House Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) argued, will have a “tremendous impact” on the country’s longer-term debt problem; House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.) called the challenge facing the supercommittee “an enormous opportunity” for Congress to address the twin problems of the nation’s debt and jobs crises.
The argument is also one that President Obama is likely to make in his address to a joint session of Congress this Thursday.
House Republicans, meanwhile, have crafted a six-part “Plan for America’s Job Creators” that focuses on cutting taxes and reducing federal regulations. The proposal also calls for Washington to “pay down America’s unsustainable debt burden and start living within our means.”
Despite the wide gulf between the parties when it comes to how best to create jobs, might it be possible for the supercommittee’s members to find common ground when they meet this week? The members’ early comments would seem to suggest so.
Rep. Xavier Becerra, one of the three House Democrats on the panel, voted last year against the recommendation of Obama’s deficit reduction panel, which included entitlement changes. But the California Democrat told reporters after Tuesday’s news conference that he would be open to considering changes to some federal entitlement programs if Republicans were also willing to consider tax increases — two issues that are perennial sticking points between the parties.
“I’ve said this before: none of us should walk in the door believing that we can come in with preconditions,” Becerra said. “We should be prepared to check our egos, our sacred cows and our special-interest pledges at the door so we can have a full discussion, everything on the table. ... It would be a sin for us to walk in as twelve members closing the door to consider anything, even things we don’t like. So long as we’re open, hopefully what we’ll leave on the table — with the public watching — will be the things that drive America forward.”