An elusive GOP jobs plan

In the Spring, it was quite common for the right to be outraged by Democratic criticism of Paul Ryan’s House Republican budget plan. “At least he has a plan,” conservatives would say. “Where’s the Democratic alternative?” It wasn’t much of an argument, but it tended to resonate with reporters and pundits.

Six months later, the tables have been turned. As the jobs crisis lingers, and Americans demand action on job creation, President Obama has presented a credible, popular, and bipartisan jobs plan. By some independent estimate, the American Jobs Act, if approved, could create as many as 1.9 million jobs.

So, where’s the Republican alternative?

In a White House press conference this morning, this was a point the president seemed eager to push.

“[W]hat I’ve tried to do is say, here are the best ideas I’ve heard. Not just from partisans, but from independent economists. These are the ideas most likely to create jobs now and strengthen the economy right now. And that’s what the American people are looking for. And the response from Republicans has been: No. Although they haven’t given a good reason why they’re opposed to putting construction workers back on the job, or teachers back in the classroom.

“If you ask them, ‘Well, okay, if you’re not for that, what are you for?’ Trade has already been done; patent reform has been done. What else? The answer we’re getting right now is, well, we’re going to roll back all these Obama regulations. So their big economic plan to put people back to work right now is to roll back financial protections and allow banks to charge hidden fees on credit cards again or weaken consumer watchdogs, or alternatively they’ve said we’ll roll back regulations that make sure we’ve got clean air and clean water, eliminate the EPA. Does anybody really think that that is going to create jobs right now and meet the challenges of a global economy that are — that is weakening with all these forces coming into play?

“I mean, here is a good question, here’s a little homework assignment for folks: Go ask the Republicans what their jobs plan is if they’re opposed to the American Jobs Act, and have it scored, have it assessed by the same independent economists that have assessed our jobs plan. These independent economists say that we could grow the economy as much as 2 percent, and as many as 1.9 million workers would be back on the job. I think it would be interesting to have them do a similar assessment — same people. Some of these folks, by the way, traditionally have worked for Republicans, not just Democrats. Have those economists evaluate what, over the next two years, the Republican jobs plan would do.

“I’ll be interested in the answer. I think everybody here — I see some smirks in the audience because you know that it’s not going to be real robust.”

That sounds more than reasonable. Obama put together a plan, put the ideas in writing, and took it to the country. Economists have scrutinized it and come away fairly impressed, and polls show Americans generally approving of the plan’s ideas.

If Republicans are serious about governing — they’re not, but for the sake of discussion, let’s pretend they are — they can present an alternative approach and allow a similar level of scrutiny.

John Boehner wants to know, “Where are jobs?” It’s a good question. Another good question is, “Where’s the GOP jobs plan?”

Republicans intend to kill the Americans Jobs Act? OK, but where’s their alternative? The president added this morning, “We know that this jobs bill, based on independent analysis, could grow the economy almost an additional 2 percent. That could mean an additional 1.9 million jobs. Do they have a plan that would have a similar impact? Because if they do, I’m happy to hear it.”

The simple fact of the matter is, congressional Republicans don’t have a jobs plan. They don’t even pretend to. By all indications, nearly every aspect of the GOP approach to governance is predicated on the idea, at least in the short-term, of making unemployment worse.

This generally goes unsaid, especially by establishment media outlets. It was refreshing to hear Obama remind the political world of these relevant details.