Rediscovering an interest in jobs

For two years, congressional Republicans claimed to be interested in job creation. John Boehner couldn’t do an interview without asking, “Where are the jobs?” Unemployment, it’s safe to say, was the driving factor behind the huge GOP gains in the midterms.

After which, Republicans completely forgot about the issue.

What has the GOP been spending its time on lately? Wasting time on health care bills they know they can’t pass, abortion bills they know they can’t pass, climate bills they know they can’t pass, and budget bills they know they can’t pass. Republicans have also invested considerable energy in accusing Muslim Americans of disloyalty, targeting Planned Parenthood, and going after NPR, when they weren’t threatening to shut down the government and cause a national default.

In April, the House Speaker said his party’s focus would soon change, and the GOP would have a jobs agenda. That was nearly eight weeks ago. Today, after nearly five months in office, Boehner said his party is now ready to take the issue seriously.

Speaker John Boehner on Thursday argued the GOP has been working on the issue of jobs since taking power in January even as he unveiled the party’s first legislative package specifically targeted at job growth.

“A number of economists tell us if we can cut spending it will lead to a better environment for job creation in America,” the Ohio Republican said during a press conference.

Sigh.

I suppose it’s nice that Republicans are finally willing to at least talk about jobs. Up until now, the most notable employment development on Capitol Hill this year was Boehner saying, “So be it” when told his agenda would likely force thousands of Americans from their jobs. That suggests today represents something resembling progress.

It’s hard to delve into too much analysis of the new GOP approach without more details from the members themselves, but the Wall Street Journal reports that the jobs plan includes yet another massive tax cut — lowering the top rate from 35% to 25% — along with a plan to limit taxation of multinational corporations so that they only pay taxes on domestic earnings.

How would the GOP pay for these billions of dollars in tax breaks? Republicans haven’t said. They never do.

In some ways, this should probably be seen as another gift to Democrats. Republicans may not realize this — or maybe they do, and don’t care — but tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires don’t work and aren’t popular. Proposing massive tax giveaways to the rich while also trying to eliminate Medicare really isn’t popular.

So, let’s have the debate. Indeed, if the larger discourse rediscovers the importance of job creation, I’d be delighted. Republicans appear to be presenting warmed-over nonsense — tax cuts, deregulation, oil drilling, taking public investment out of the economy — but at least it’s putting employment on the radar.

If Democrats want to present a less-ridiculous proposal to create jobs to compete against the already-failed agenda of their GOP rivals, that’d be great, too.