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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 08/11/2011

A modest proposal: Super-committee should focus on jobs

Yesterday Dem Rep John Larson made the audacious suggestion that in addition to creating a Congressional “super-committee” on the deficit, Congress should also create one to focus on job creation. Given the deafening roar of deficit chatter created by the Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop, my first reaction was that the poor fellow is more likely to get hauled away in a straightjacket than see his wish come true.

But today a large and ideologically diverse group of Democratic senators is endorsing a similar idea: The Congressional super-committee on the deficit should also focus on jobs. And get this — the senators advanced the novel idea that creating more jobs would help lower the deficit.

The senators came out for focusing the super committee on jobs in a letter to GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell that was spearheaded by Dem Senator Jeff Merkley:

Given that the single best deficit reduction strategy is economic growth, we urge you to ensure that your appointments to the new joint select committee (“JSC”) created by the debt limit bill are committed to a policy of job creation.
The recent spate of discouraging economic news underscores the need to make employment the top priority of our government. For families across the country, the biggest economic problem is high unemployment. As you know, the lack of jobs and anemic growth rate of the economy are not only enormous problems in their own right, causing great pain for millions of Americans, they are a major component of our deficit. Indeed, the loss of revenue resulting from the recession accounts for nearly $4 trillion of the projected deficits over the next 10 years.
At the same time, jobless workers put additional strain on our critical social safety net programs. As more and more Americans rely on unemployment benefits, food stamps and Medicaid, our deficits go up. Getting those individuals back to work not only allows them to be self-sufficient, it reduces federal government spending.
It is therefore appropriate and important that the JSC explicitly embrace job creation as a part of its mission. Targeted investments in economic growth and job creation can complement and even enhance long-term deficit reduction efforts and should be a priority that the JSC embraces. Indeed, failure to make such investments could have a serious negative impact on our fiscal situation.

The letter is not signed by any of the three Senate Democrats who Harry Reid appointed to the super-committee — Patty Murray, Max Baucus, and John Kerry — which seems worthy of further exploration. My understanding is the letter was formulated before the three were announced, but it still seems fair to ask: Do the three Dem Senators on the super committee agree that job creation should be part of its mission?

Indeed, why direct this letter only at Mitch McConnell and the GOP appointees on the committee? Dems have been complicit in creating the Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop. It seems fair to pressure Dem leaders to reorient the committee towards jobs, too.

It’s unclear how focusing the committee on jobs creation would work in practice, of course, particularly since its evenly split between Dems and Republicans. But anything that makes even a cursory effort to refocus the overall conversation is to be welcomed, particularly if it amplifies the point that a good way to reduce the deficit is to, you know, create jobs. Too often the only connection drawn between the deficit and jobs runs in the other direction, with Republicans routinely arguing that we must cut spending first in order create the “confidence” and “certainty” for the private sector to create jobs. The idea that active government measures to create jobs would reduce the deficit is virtually absent from the conversation.

By  |  12:00 PM ET, 08/11/2011

 
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