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What's Next? A Weak Jobs Agenda to Look Forward To

 
 
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 At first glance, the headline on the AP article appears encouraging: “Congress has a shot at passing jobs-creating bills.” Nothing is ever certain with this Congress, but if some jobs bills have “a shot,” that at least offers some hope, doesn’t it?

The test of the piece itself isn’t as encouraging.

When Congress gets back to work after Labor Day it will have the chance to achieve something that has largely eluded it for the entire year, passing legislation that might actually create jobs.

With the battering debate over the debt ceiling over, the stage is set for Congress to approve and President Barack Obama to sign three big free-trade agreements and the most significant overhaul of the patent system in 60 years.

Legislative hitches can never be discounted, but both the trade and patent measures enjoy bipartisan support from lawmakers eager to show they can make a difference in improving the feeble job market.

 

 

It’s not my area of expertise, but the patent bill appears to have merit, and streamlining the outdated patent process appears long overdue. But realistically, the impact on jobs would be modest, and more importantly, we wouldn’t actually see new jobs for quite a while. The problem isn’t with the bill, which appears to be worthwhile, but with the short-term impact on job creation, or in this case, the lack thereof.

As for the trade bills, it’s worth noting they would have already advanced were it not for Republican opposition to the Obama administration’s worker-protection provisions. The White House has said it’ll back the trade deals so long as they come with federal assistance to displaced workers. GOP officials have repeatedly refused, though there’s talk of a compromise.

Ultimately, though, these are very modest steps, which may not pass anyway. What’s needed is a bold, ambitious approach in which policymakers treat unemployment like the pressing crisis it is. Patent reform and some trade bills will struggle to gain approval, and more effective measures will be rejected by congressional Republicans. If Americans wanted Washington to take jobs seriously, they made a serious mistake last November.

That said, I’d remind GOP leaders that major pollsters have never seen a more unpopular Congress. If Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, & Co. want do something to boost Congress’ approval rating — a rating so low it’s likely to generate intense anti-incumbent sentiment up and down the ballot — they could, in theory, start taking unemployment seriously.

 

 

Washington Monthly / By Steve Benen

Posted at August 8, 2011, 5:58am

 
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