If only pollution could create jobs

White House officials are still in the process of completing their new economic agenda, to be unveiled next week, but House Republicans are apparently done with their new plan. Nearly eight months into the new Congress, the GOP hasn’t even brought any jobs bills to the floor, but now they seem to have settled on a new vision on how to create jobs.

Well, perhaps “new” is overstating matters.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Monday laid out an ambitious anti-tax and anti-regulations agenda for the fall.

In a memo to rank-and-file Republicans, Cantor said the House will target 10 major regulations for elimination, and will also seek to enact one major tax cut for businesses.

Cantor sees an economy lacking demand, a public sector shedding jobs, workers with stagnant wages, and anemic growth, and has apparently concluded, “What we really need right now is deregulation.”

And what kind of regulations are being targeted? High on Cantor’s list are measures that limit the amount of mercury and other toxins that boiler and incinerator operators can burn into the atmosphere.

In case this isn’t obvious, Cantor’s plan is a poor jobs agenda. Indeed, it’s not really an agenda in any meaningful sense at all. Republicans have been pushing for deregulation efforts like these for decades — Cantor isn’t responding to a changing economic landscape and new demand-driven challenges with a tailored package of policy solutions; Cantor is just listing a bunch of safeguards Republicans want to scrap anyway.

There’s just no depth of thought here. The GOP leadership believes businesses might hire more if, for example, they were allowed to pollute more, while Democrats believe business might hire more if they had more customers.

Not that it much matters. As Cantor surely realizes, the Senate and the White House won’t try to create jobs by weakening clean air safeguards.

But I think it’s at least mildly helpful anyway in letting the public know where the two parties stand. Next week, President Obama will present one vision, likely built around investing in infrastructure and school construction, which can then be compared against the House Republican vision, built around looser pollution controls. I have a hunch the American mainstream will prefer the former over the latter, if the debate actually reaches any of the public.