Larson’s plan to improve Congress’ priorities

The Murray/Hensarling “Super Committee” will get to work next week, taking its first steps towards trying to find over $1 trillion in deficit savings before Thanksgiving. There are all kinds of problems with the panel — which seems destined to fail anyway — but perhaps none more dramatic than its priorities. In short, the committee is focusing one problem that isn’t urgent (the debt), while ignoring a different problem that’s a legitimate crisis (unemployment).

Following up on an item from a few weeks ago, House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) has a very worthwhile idea intended to improve Congress’ priorities. From his press release sent out this afternoon:

Today, Larson introduced three measures that the Super Committee may choose to pursue that would provide different paths to the same goal — reducing unemployment and addressing our debt:

1) A bill to amend the mission of the Deficit Super Committee, to require the Members to develop both a deficit reduction plan and a job creation plan.

2) A bill to amend the mission of the Deficit Super Committee and add four additional members — one from each party in each chamber — to allow for the extra work being undertaken.

3) A bill to create a parallel Super Committee to focus on jobs, under the same terms as the Deficit Super Committee.

This is good stuff. Larson is basically saying the existing Super Committee can add “create jobs” to its to-do list, or Congress should create a separate Super Committee to tackle the problem that actually matters.

As Ezra Klein noted this morning, “Larson is on the right track here: the political system’s hard-won insights into how to achieve deficit reduction — or at least how to make it more likely — should be applied to jobs, too. That the supercommittee wasn’t designed this way in the first place is evidence of how misplaced Washington’s priorities are.”

This should, of course, be a no-brainer, and the basic structure of Larson’s idea already enjoys broad support among congressional Democrats. And why wouldn’t it? Who would be against Congress focusing on job creation when unemployment is at 9.1% and the economy isn’t adding any jobs?

The answer, of course, is congressional Republicans, who are all for a debt-reduction super committee, but who’ve already balked at the idea of a jobs super committee. A spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently said Larson’s proposal “sounds like a scheme for more of the same failed ‘stimulus’ government spending.”

Anyone wondering why American politics is currently incapable of problem-solving should wonder no more.