Last night, President Obama rolled out a $450 billion job creation package before a joint session of Congress, calling for a plan that includes a payroll tax reduction, money for infrastructure and school modernization, as well as help for homeowners and reforms of the unemployment insurance program. “This plan is the right thing to do right now. You should pass it,” Obama said.
But while the GOP leadership has made some conciliatory comments — with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) saying that “the proposals the President outlined tonight merit consideration” — many Republicans have derided the plan by calling it another stimulus, along the lines of the 2009 Recovery Act:
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): “More stimulus? Do we really need ‘son of stimulus’? We passed a trillion dollars in stimulus. Will billions more do the job? There is nothing new here…I hope Congress doesn’t pass this plan.”
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA): “The failed stimulus and its successor policies have proven that massive government deficit spending is not the solution — it is the problem.” Issa also “poo-pooed the president’s job package, saying it sounds like a ‘second stimulus.’”
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): “Although the plan we heard tonight sounds a lot like a replay of his 2009 stimulus bill, even the President has now come to realize what Americans have known for some time, it simply didn’t work. $800 billion in federal spending got us where we are today.”
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL): “This seems to be nothing more than a son of stimulus proposal that will generate more political rhetoric than jobs. If that is the case, I will firmly reject it.”
REP. ANDY HARRIS (R-MD): “We didn’t hear a whole lot new. This is basically ‘stimulus two.’”
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): “Two and a half years after the President’s signature jobs bill was signed into law, 1.7 million fewer Americans have jobs. So, I’d say that Americans have 1.7 million reasons to oppose another stimulus.”
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN REINCE PREIBUS: “Despite one failed stimulus, the President wants even more deficit spending.”
Of course, all of this criticism is based on the incorrect assumption that the 2009 Recovery Act didn’t work. But as the Congressional Budget Office has continually found, the Recovery Act created or supported millions of jobs, keeping the unemployment rate up to two points below where it otherwise would have been. At its height in the third quarter of 2010, Recovery Act funds were supporting up to 3.6 million jobs.
Thus far, economists have offered “mainly positive reviews” of Obama’s plan, with Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics estimating that “the plan would add 2 percentage points to GDP growth next year, add 1.9 million jobs, and cut the unemployment rate by a percentage point.” Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimate that the plan will boost growth by 1.5 percentage points, while the Economic Policy Institute said that the plan will create 2.6 million jobs and support another 1.6 million, boosting overall employment by almost 4.3 million.
The reason that unemployment is so high, even with the Recovery Act, is that it wasn’t big enough to deal with the scale of the problem. But to Republicans, the millions of jobs created by the Recovery Act signal abject failure, and therefore Obama’s new jobs plan doesn’t warrant consideration, even as the economy struggles to throw off the chains of the Great Recession.