D.C. Gets Back to Work–and to Its Lame, Half-Hearted Jobs Debate

House GOP leaders will roll out more so-called jobs ideas this week, in anticipation of the president's expected proposals next week. None of it is expected to meet the scale of the problem.

By Shani O. Hilton Aug 31, 2011

Back in May, we reported on the [House GOP’s jobs plan](http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/05/boehners_jobs_plan_same_old_same_old.html), a list of traditionally conservative ideas like tax cuts and deregulation. Now, in advance of President Obama’s upcoming jobs speech, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is back with more details on his party’s corporation- and conservative-friendly plan. With unemployment at catastrophic rates for people of color, Colorlines.com has been [hunting down job ideas](http://colorlines.com/jobs-crisis/) that would work but aren’t getting much play. The jobless rate for blacks is double the national rate, at 16 percent; it’s 11.3 percent for Latinos; and the *under*employment rate is much higher. Take a weekday stroll through any urban neighborhood in the country and idle young people of color lingering on sidewalks will serve as a reminder that a whopping 39 percent of black youths want jobs and can’t find any. Perhaps because of constraints caused by last December’s deficit-increasing deal with Republicans over unemployment benefits, and the recent concessions the White House made to the GOP over the [debt ceiling debate](http://colorlines.com/debt-deal/), Obama’s own jobs plan is expected to be heavy on tax policy. Analysts say there will be requests to extend unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut, to create an additional payroll tax cut for employers and to offer tax incentives to businesses if they create jobs in the U.S. One nod to progressive economic thinking is the creation of an "infrastructure bank"–a fund that would allow cash-strapped states to access money to build roads and bridges and hire workers–but it won’t be funded for several years. Ironically, while the House GOP plan is big on tax cuts, Republicans oppose the payroll tax cut for workers–they insist that cuts for corporations are more important. In addition to "tax relief," Cantor has now identified 10 government regulations that he wants his party to go after. In a [letter to House Republicans](http://majorityleader.gov/blog/2011/08/memo-on-upcoming-jobs-agenda.html), he writes, "By pursuing a steady repeal of job-destroying regulations, we can help lift the cloud of uncertainty hanging over small and large employers alike, empowering them to hire more workers." But this plan may create a cloud of pollution–seven out of the 10 regulations are related to protecting the environment, including the so-called "coal ash" rule, which is intended to reduce dangerous pollution. It’s worth noting, of course, that nearly 70 percent of African Americans live near power plants, which greatly increases health risks like asthma and cancer. Meanwhile, as we’ve reported extensively, economic realities show that tax cuts and deregulation are highly ineffective ways of putting people back to work. Demand, economists say, is the problem. As Center on Budget Policy Priorities economist Chad Stone told Colorlines earlier this year, companies are saving the money they get from tax cuts: "They’re already sitting on huge piles of cash." Economists have calculated how much money tax cuts generate for the economy and workers–and it isn’t much. Tax cuts add money to the deficit, and for every dollar added to the deficit because of them, the economy gets $0.20 back. That’s 20 cents on the dollar. Yet, for every dollar added to the deficit because of direct government spending the economy gets $1.75 back. There are ideas that will put people to work, and the money to fund those ideas: much-needed [infrastructure projects](http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/06/suddenly_everyone_cares_about_job_creation.html), [direct hiring plans](http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/06/putting_people_directly_to_work_is_too_radical_for_congress.html) and taxes on rich financial speculators. The Congressional Black Caucus–"we’re getting tired, y’all"–has begun to advance its own jobs initiative–including simple [jobs fairs](http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/08/cbc_kicks_off_job_fair_wants_to_get_10000_hired.html) to connect employers and jobseekers and introducing legislation to [prevent discrimination against the longterm unemployed](http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/08/senate_bill_would_ban_employers_bias_against_out-of-work_applicants.html). The Progressive Caucus, meanwhile, is calling for a series of "super committee" hearings on unemployment alongside the ones Congress must now hold on deficit reduction. But conservatives opposition to spending, and their desire to help the rich hoard cash while poor people and people of color struggle, continues to stand in the way.