Yesterday, the Senate failed for a second time to advance its tax extenders bill, which extends unemployment benefits for laid off workers as well as various tax credits. The vote was 56–40 (four shy of the required sixty), with opponents from both parties once again citing the cost of the package as their overriding concern. “It’s still not paid for, fully paid for, is it?” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE). “Then nothing’s changed.” “Americans are frustrated with the amount of spending and borrowing that we’re doing around here,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
At the same time that they’re blocking the extenders bill, of course, faux-deficit hawks in the Senate are trying to reduce the tax bill for the heirs of the richest multimillionaires in the country by cutting the estate tax. Sen. George LeMieux (R-FL), who voted against the extenders bill, supports a plan put forth by Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) that would use tens of billions of dollars in spending offsets to cut taxes for the richest 0.2 percent of estates in the country. Yesterday, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) slammed LeMieux for his misplaced sense of priorities:
STABENOW: Would you agree that then we should, rather than decreasing the estate tax for less than one half percent of the public, that maybe we should make sure that any dollars there should go back into somebody who doesn’t have a job and maybe help create a partnership with a business to create a job? Would you say that’s a better priority than what’s going to be coming up here not too long on the floor, to try to help folks that already make millions of dollars a year?
LEMIEUX: Respectfully, I think the estate tax issue is a different issue, but I’ll address it…
STABENOW: I don’t think it’s a different issue!
Stabenow’s exactly right that this isn’t a different issue. The notion that the Senate would find $80 billion in spending offsets and then use it to do anything other than job creation is simply maddening.
Deficit hysteria is preventing much needed job creation measures from going forward, but as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told me, “we do not have a short-term deficit crisis, we have a short-term jobs crisis in this country. And anyone that doesn’t believe that has either, I think, been reading too much fiction or they have their head in the sand.”
And it’s not like doing more to spur job creation would put lawmakers on the wrong side of public opinion (despite what McConnell seems to believe). According to the latest Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans approve of additional government spending to create jobs and stimulate the economy. Not that mass approval is always a good reason to do things, but lawmakers who think there will be a vast public blowback to increased job creation efforts might want to think again.