It’s Easy to Forget a Half-Trillion Dollar Jobs Package

Try not to chuckle as you read this morning’s Byron York column on President Obama’s State of the Union address. His thesis:

White House spinners are working furiously in the final 72 hours before President Obama’s State of the Union speech. Their job: convince the recession-scarred American public that economic recovery is Obama’s top priority — after everything he has said and done to suggest otherwise.

In York’s telling, the White House spent the last four years ignoring the unemployment crisis and has only addressed it now because “Obama has noticed public opinion.”

Now, I happen to believe that the White House, especially early in the term, did not pay enough attention to unemployment. That’s an entirely valid point to make. But York’s contention — that Obama did nothing on the jobs front — is a lie that, to adopt the campaign metaphor, requires a thorough Etch A Sketching of his memory banks.

I refer, of course, to the American Jobs Act, which was introduced in September 2011 and died on the table, thanks to Republicans, a month later. The failure to pass this $450 billion bill was of massive consequence to the economy in general and jobs in particular. Here’s a taste of what was in the White House bill, via Brother Benen, who wrote about it here:

* Payroll tax breaks for workers and employers

* Tax credit for hiring unemployed veterans

* Modernizing 35,000 schools (FAST Act)

* Sizable infrastructure investments in roads, rail, airports and waterways

* Extended unemployment benefits and new approaches to unemployment insurance, including work-sharing and “Bridge to Work”

You will notice that nowhere in York’s column do the words ‘American Jobs Act’ appear. Let’s give him enough credit to assume the omission is intentional. The man knows his audience; they surely do not have any interest in the conclusion of the Economic Policy Institute, that with the passage of the American Jobs Act “real GDP growth for 2012 would have been 1.4 percentage points higher, bringing growth to 3.4 percent relative to the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline forecast.”