Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a $15 billion jobs bill that seems unlikely to make much of a dent in our nation's chronic unemployment problem. It's almost identical to a measure passed by the Senate last week, but different enough that the Senate will have to take additional action to reconcile the two versions. The Senate bill itself was a scaled-down version of a much larger bipartison compromise jobs bill.
Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats opposed to the bill say it's too expensive and doesn't cut taxes enough. Liberal Ds like Rep. Barbara Lee from Oakland, CA, say it's far too little and helps businesses rather than actual workers.
Let's do the math. Today's report from the Bureau of Labor Stats finds 14.9 million Americans unemployed. Another 8.8 million are working part-time when they'd prefer to work full-time. Another 2.5 million are "marginally attached to the labor force," meaning they've simply stopped looking for work. That's a total of 26.2 million Americans who need jobs help.
This $15 billion jobs bill would provide about $573 for each person in need. Anyone in workforce development will tell you it costs a lot more than that to retrain a person and get them placed in a new job.
But it's more than just the price tag that's at stake here.
As a blogger who writes about jobs a lot, I find it hard to find anything to say about the jobs bill at all. Tough times call for imagination, creative problem-solving and foresight. From Congress we're getting short-term thinking that relies on tired, uninspiring ideas.
Our reps in Congress promise this is only step one and that more legislation is on the way. Will it just be more of the same? Or will we see legislation that addresses fundamental problems in our national economy?
Where are the creative ideas that respond to the way labor demand and jobs are being restructured by global economic forces today?