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Conyers' Deficit-Neutral Jobs Bill

July 14, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

If I had to pick the top three factors in U.S. politics right now I would say the unemployment situation, concern about the deficit, and distrust of the financial industry. Remarkably, Rep. John Conyers [D, MI-14] (pictured) has introduced a bill this session that seems to fall on the popular side of all three of these issues. It would be deficit neutral, dramatically reduce unemployment, and levy a new tax on the riskiest Wall Street transactions.

The bill is called the 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act. Here’s how it would work.

First, the bill sets a series of binding unemployment-rate targets that over a ten-year period would bring the rate down to 4%. Here are the targets:

  • 9% unemployment after 6 months of the bill being enacted
  • 8% unemployment after 2 years
  • 6% unemployment after 5 years
  • 5% unemployment after 8 years
  • 4% unemployment after 4 years

If, according to data from the Labor Department, any of the above targets are not met, money would be automatically disbursed from a new “National Full Employment Trust Fund” that would be set up under the bill to fund new job positions around the country. That money would go primarily to city governments in areas with exceptionally high unemployment rates, but some of it would also go to state governments (30%) and indian tribes (5%). Those funds would then be disbursed to public and private projects that directly address the needs of their communites. Examples spelled out in the bill include repairing schools, revitalizing abandoned property, expanding emergency food programs, and increasing staff at programs that help disadvantaged youth.

All jobs created under the bill would have to be designed to last for 12 months or more at at least 30 hours per week. They would also have to meet some minimum pay requirements to ensure that employees funded by the bill earn rates equivalent to regular employees.

You’re probably wondering how anything like this could possibly be deficit neutral. Well, the answer is that the bill calls for a new financial transactions tax to be levied on companies that engage in high-risk trades. Stock trades, futures contracts and credit default swaps would all be included. More exotic transactions would likely be taxed several times over under the bill, and the impact on short-term, risky speculation would be more significant than that on long-term investing and hedging. The idea behind this financial transaction tax is twofold — it raises money to fund the jobs trust fund and it discourages financial companies from getting involved in too much short-term speculation.

This bill has not moved an inch in the legislative process. It was introduced on May 4, 2010 and has been stuck in committee since. But that’s really no surprise. Congress right now can hardly pass a 6-month extension of unemployment insurance, let alone a massive new jobs program. And they can’t pass a financial reform bill that contains a relatively modest $19-blilion-over-ten-years tax on big banks and hedge funds, let alone a sweeping financial transactions tax that could cost the industry as much as $100 billion per year. But support for the bank tax is steadily growing — see the work of Dean Baker and Bankster USA — and the unemployment situation is set to take a turn for the worst, so a legislative package like this may look different to us in the coming months and years.

UPDATE (4/2011): Conyer’s has reintroduced a version of this bill for the 112th Congress — H.R.870, the Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act.


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  • Drewbot78 07/14/2010 4:54pm

    A bill to screw the very banksters who have been robbing us and use their money to assure employment through Infrastructure projects? Sounds like a great idea at face value, I wonder what the catches are though.

  • syfy1985 07/14/2010 6:32pm

    what the fuck r these people tryn to now. they dont need to try anything else until they pass this unemployment shit first. im just starting to hate the people at the fuckn white house. they really need to be somewhere in hell for all the bullshit that they have put us american thru. i ahte this shit. fuckn rich ass sorry ass people. like i said, before they need to take some of those retarded ass people thats in the seats out cause they dont realize what they fuck they r doing to use american people. asshole!

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    proudtobehiswife 07/14/2010 6:47pm

    As the article stated, this bill has been around for over 2 months and hasn’t moved at all. They are still concentrating primarily on the unemployment extension, however the extension is only a temporary fix and not a permanent solution. A good jobs bill is essential to getting the economy back to where it should be and avoiding situations like this in the future.

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    sas7394 07/15/2010 5:22am

    Dear proudtobehiswife, they’ve already done the same thing with the “STIMULUS” bill, that HAD to be passed or the unemployment rate would raise above 8 % well hello, the taxpayers already footed the bill for the “JOB STIMULUS” once already, we are now looking at 10 % and above, a lot of good that did , they could have just given us all checks. The type of jobs they are mentioning aren’t UNIVERSAL, for the most part are cherry picked for political advantage ( i.e. UNIONS),seasonal, part-time or temporary. Not everyone is going to be going out an paving a road, revitalizing old schools which after fixed up still have a terrible academics rate ( exterior doesn’t help interior of minds) expanding food programs is not a JOB CREATOR, etc. Nothing of REAL long term substance mentioned here.

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    proudtobehiswife 07/15/2010 7:40am

    Did I say THIS was a good jobs bill? No. I said a good jobs bill was essential to preventing this problem in the future, which is true. What is your solution? Continue to give unemployment checks while there is absolutely no job growth? Jobs need to be created and I’m personally open to any ideas that sound feasible. My husband and I are both employed tax-payers and we both see the need for job creation. This may not be the solution but it does need to be concentrated on. As I said, unemployment checks are a band-aid, what the country really needs is solid job creation.

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    FredNitz 07/15/2010 4:17am

    Can’t you say anything in common proper English. Grow up and talk like a man. Swearing like that is a sign of immaturity.

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    lesmilne 07/15/2010 9:39am

    Amen to that! If you want respect and consideration for what you are saying, then people need to speak with respect.

  • Norwalkhills 07/14/2010 6:40pm

    If we would bring back all of the jobs in India, China and Indonesia maybe 7-8 percent of us unemployed would have jobs still. Soup kitchens will be springing up soon. By 2015, there will be no more middle class Americans.

  • nolongeraproudamerican 07/14/2010 6:49pm

    Boy Howdy !!! Aren’t you literate!!!

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    syfy1985 07/15/2010 6:56am
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    well howdy????? what make u say that?

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    syfy1985 07/15/2010 7:01am
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    what thell make u say that????? see u and these unemployment folks are getn ready to piss me the fuck off. nowlongeraproudamerican, i didnt ask ur lame ass to direct nothing to me. this is my feeling and how i feel about unemployment changing, so u can kiss my ass!!!!!! i dont give 2 fucks about what u think. just like u and the people in the white house, u can kiss my ass for all i care!

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    lesmilne 07/15/2010 9:42am

    Wow…and exactly how would you suggest making things work better? That’s what we do here, discuss how to make things better. We’re all frustrated and weary and desperate. But don’t criticize unless you can give it some serious thought and not respond like a spoiled teenager. At 25, it’s time to respond intelligently, and not throw tantrums. Please.

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  • nolongeraproudamerican 07/14/2010 6:52pm

    Directed to syfy1985

  • Sannybeth 07/14/2010 7:56pm
    * Petition to Reduce the Wages of Congress Men and Women from $174,000 per year to $50,000 per year.
  • Sannybeth 07/14/2010 8:24pm

    H.R. 4720 is a bill to lower congress pay. How do we make it go through?

  • cgvetintx 07/15/2010 2:35am

    This bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Read the bill not the summary or the commentary. This bill will impose a discretionary tax on stock securities per transaction purchases starting at a whopping 25% per distraction but get this, the language in the bill gives the Secretary of Treasury the power to slide that rate up according to how much money is needed to meet the reduction in unemployment numbers, plus the fact that the only jobs being created will be federal, state or local government jobs (it says “some” private industry. This bill will kill small business and entrepaneurs trying to raise capital by giving their “risky” stock sales a higher investment transaction tax rating wall street, how is that going to stimulate job growth? It’s a sham designed to create even more tax loopholes for the larger less risky corporations on wall street!

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    donnyshaw 07/15/2010 7:19am

    One correction — the securities tax would start at 0.25%, not 25%. Here’s a link directly to that language:

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    lesmilne 07/15/2010 9:47am

    I wouldn’t like it either way, but .25% sounds a heck of a lot better than 25%! We do need to find ways to help small businesses, and jobs in the private industry. Too many are having to shut their doors, thus costing us so many more jobs! :)

  • tulips4you2 07/15/2010 11:31am

    At the rate congress is moving it would take them 15 years to vote on this bill.

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