BROOKLYN — Whenever I see Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) defending GOP obstruction on the President’s jobs package, I notice that he mentions “15 jobs bills” already passed by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, only to languish in the U.S. Senate — blocked by obstructionist Democrats. If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it 15 times.
However, no matter how often TV news reports allow Boehner to utter this alibi, I never hear an alleged TV “journalist” respond with the first question that comes to my old-school, newspaper-bound mind: “WHAT 15 jobs bills?”
It turns out there’s a list! The Republicans put it up on the worldwide web, and for some reason, the number of House resolutions listed is actually 24. As I studied these “jobs bills,” I deleted one because it was sponsored by Democrats. The Senate crossed off another on Nov. 7 by voting it forward for eventual passage. Ironically, this bill (HR 674) repeals a tax signed into law by George W. Bush.
As a public service, I thought somebody — anybody — should explain John Boehner’s Job-Creatin’ Fifteen (actually, Twenty-Two). So, well, here goes…
Right away, I figured out that the Job-Creatin’ Fifteen-or-So fall roughly into six categories. The first — just one bill — mandates the regulation of regulation. HR 72 requires 10 House committees to take a blue pencil to rules, regs, executive and agency orders, and “other administrative actions” that “impede, discourage, hurt, harm, limit, fail to utilize, lack, undermine, impose or prevent” really good, true-blue U.S. patriots and Republican voters from succeeding in small business. This Panglossian catch-all boldly orders Congress to stare the meddling federal bureaucracy dead in the eye while putting together a new federal bureaucracy that goes out there onto Main Street USA and kicks the federal bureaucracy’s ass.
You can’t deny that this is a noble idea, but is it a jobs bill?
OK, we have to digress. What’s a jobs bill? As I learned the concept in my youth, a jobs bill is Lake Tomah. Before the New Deal (well before I was born), the hamlet of Tomah, where I grew up, had no lake. It just had a sluggish river called the Lemonweir oozing through the north side of town. Then came the Depression and passage of the law that launched the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Just from its name, you get the feeling this was seriously and sincerely a “jobs bill.” And it was. It put up money for unemployed people to work, on actual jobs — like damming the Lemonweir and digging this huge hole that turned into Lake Tomah.
OK, that’s a jobs bill: money to pay workers — within, say, less than a year — to make something you can touch afterwards, and maybe catch fish in.
So, HR 674 — the Bureaucrat Ass-Kicking Act of 2011? Not a jobs bill.
My next group of Boehner bills — HR’s 1070, 1965, 2433, 2930 and 2940) are all pretty much “Mom and apple pie.” HR 2433, for instance, would fund training for 100,000 jobless veterans, with the first vets job-ready sometime, maybe, in 2013. Rep. Bob Filner (D-Cal.) said: “My concern is that this bill will not get veterans hired at all. It may retrain them, who knows, but they’ll have no place to get a job.”
HR’s 1070, 1965, 2930, 2940 are all tweaks in securities rules that make it easier for entrepreneurs to raise capital and maybe, eventually, hire people. On the other hand, none of these bills offers hope of even one job anytime soon.
My third group of Boehner bills comes under the rubric: “Don’t Go There!” HR 37, for instance, comes out against “net neutrality,” or — in Tea Party parlance — “Keep your government hands off my Internet.” This bill injects Congress into a pissing contest between the FCC and a lot of telecommunications giants and K Street lobbyists. This battle won’t end in this decade, which means? Right. No jobs.
The other “Don’t Go There,” bill (HR 1904) is an Arizona land swap. A copper conglomerate (who might be hiring sometime in 2020) wants to dig a mine. The Apache Nations, on the other side, don’t want to give up their ancient sacred burial grounds. To see any jobs here, you have to bet against the descendants of Geronimo.
Group #4 is a couple of spite bills. The first — HR 1315 — is Wall Street’s Revenge. It proposes measures to reverse the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms, gut the effectiveness of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and turn the CFPB director into a bureaucratic eunuch who would need a majority vote from a politically-appointed five-member committee if he wants to leave the room and take a leak. This is a jobs bill only for the five tubesteaks the Take-a-Leak Committee (although they are certain to be paid handsomely).
Boeing’s Revenge (HR 2587) is a nakedly right-wing anti-union bill aimed at intimidating the National Labor Relations Board into quashing an inquiry into Boeing’s shift of an airplane plant from Washington (state) to South Carolina. This is a historic conflict; it focuses on “domestic offshoring,” the poaching of whole industries from “union states” within the USA by “right-to-work” (inevitably Southern) states where companies are allowed to lower wages, slash benefits, refuse collective bargaining and ignore worker safety.
However, the bottom line here is that while Dixie gains 1,000 jobs, the Pacific Northwest loses 1,000 jobs. Net change: zero.
My fifth category of Boehner bills is the Pollute Our Way to Full Employment cluster, HR’s 872, 910, 2018, 2401, 2250, 2273 and 2681). As a group, these seven bills reduce or eliminate requirements by U.S. companies to monitor or ameliorate the effects on humans and human habitat of insecticides, fungicides, rat poison, greenhouse gases, mountaintop mining, dioxins, arsenic, mercury and lead, coal-burning smokestacks, cement-plant waste, coal ash and a few other toxic items.
Speaking, in essence, on behalf of all these bills, Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) invoked what economist Paul Krugman calls “the confidence fairy." Gibbs said they will “… relieve uncertainty; an overreaching, burdensome regulatory climate that kills jobs… this is a jobs bill [that will foster an] environment for job creators to have that confidence to start hiring people back and grow their businesses…”
One Republican lamented that the failure of a coal ash impoundment in Kingston, Tennessee in 2008 — which spilled 5 million cubic yards of coal ash and required a $1.2 billion clean-up — placed “an unwarranted stigma” on “coal combustion residuals,” threatening their beneficial reuse in construction, roofing, road-building, etc. “Thousands of jobs could be lost.”
In these discussions, “jobs” get mentioned. None, however, actually happen.
The jobs count so far? Zero — no? Well, five — sort of.
But here comes the “Drill Baby Drill” section, HR’s 1229, 1230, 1231, 1938 and 2021. The premise of all but one is that by opening the Gulf of Mexico, the Virginia coast, the Pacific and the Alaskan outer shelf to oil-drilling according to the safety standards that made the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe possible, good fossil-fuel jobs will blossom, bringing a swift end to the Bush Depression. At least that’s what John Boehner suggests.
The oil industry disagrees. According to a report authored by R. R. Iyer and I. E. Grossmann of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and S. Vasantharajan and A. S. Cullick of the Mobil Oil Strategic Research Center, “The scheduling of well and facility operations is a very relevant problem in offshore oil field development. The problem is characterized by a long planning horizon (typically 10 years)…”
So, by 2021, jobs galore! Right here, right now? Nothin’.
One last bill left: HR 1938, otherwise known as the Great Big Can of Worms of 2011. It would green-light construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from the tar sands of Canada, through the United States, across the Ogalalla Aquifer, all the way down to Houston. The beauty part is that the project is already started and the jobs it generates would be available almost as soon as HR 1938 passes.
Trouble is, this big pipe is one of the nastiest environmental spats ever introduced in Congress. It poses the danger of oil spills through some of the most sensitive lands and most valued water resources in North America. It’s opposed by an entire — red — state: Nebraska. Its chances of waltzing, unimpeded, through the Senate in time to affect the 2011, 2012, 2013 unemployment rate? Slim, and none.
Nonetheless, you gotta admit: It’s a jobs bill. If HR 1938 passes, ol’ Keystone XL could generate, within the year, some 13,000 jobs. This brings the total jobs in John Boehner’s Job-Creatin’ Fifteen-or-So up to 13,005.
That’s a lot of jobs, dude. Way to be, GOP! Except, well…
Last week, Senate Republicans filibustered— to death — a $60 billion piece of the Obama jobs bill. It would have begun rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, and would have created at least 170,000 construction jobs. Sort of like Lake Tomah.
The difference? Well, you do the math.