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Politics killed the jobs bill

Posted: October 16, 2011 - 12:09am

The following editorial first appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

It may be overly optimistic to expect Republicans and Democrats to agree to individually pass some key elements of President Barack Obama’s defeated jobs legislation.

But to accept the alternative perspective, that there’s no way this Democrat running for reelection is ever going to get Republican support, would be demoralizing. The public is desperate for bipartisanship — on anything.

Was it a dream, or wasn’t there a time in America when lawmakers who considered themselves statesmen could be counted on to put politics aside to vote in the public’s best interest? If the jobs bill had flaws, there was no serious negotiation to fix them.

Instead, Democrats accused Republicans of not wanting the economy to improve because that would help Obama, while Republicans accused Democrats of wanting Republicans to kill the jobs bill so they could be blamed for high unemployment rates.

What has this gamesmanship cost? Unless approved individually, proposals in the jobs bill that could have helped millions of people weather the current economy have fallen victim to political posturing. Among the bill’s ideas that deserve reconsideration:

• Workers’ take-home pay would be boosted by cutting the Social Security wage tax to 3.1 percent.

• Business taxes would be cut in half on payrolls up to $5 million.

• Payroll taxes would be eliminated for new workers or increases in current workers’ pay.

• Companies could receive a $4,000 tax credit for hiring a long-term unemployed worker.

• A $50 billion investment would be made to modernize highways, transit, rail and aviation.

• A $35 billion allocation would prevent the layoffs of 280,000 teachers nationwide.

• An additional $25 billion would modernize classrooms.

•There was $15 billion to rehabilitate and refurbish vacant properties and foreclosed homes.

• The bill also would provide job training, update the unemployment insurance system, and extend jobless benefits.

The Senate vote that doomed the package fell strictly along partisan lines, with the Republicans and two Democrats who face tough re-election contests in conservative states — Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Jon Tester of Montana — voting against it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., switched his vote from yes to no, but only as a procedural maneuver, so he would be able to move to reconsider the vote. Obama said the defeat was “by no means the end of this fight.”

The cerebral president in recent weeks has been urged to be more combative, but it’s not fighting words that most Americans are craving. That’s almost all they’re hearing from Democrats and Republicans, and they have had enough. People need jobs, preferably without the politics.

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