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A Supercommittee for Jobs

August 11, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

We saw during the debt ceiling standoff that the political-party-driven, filibuster-choked Congress is basically incapable of passing deficit reduction legislation. That’s why they created the “joint select committee on deficit reduction” (a.k.a. the “Supercommittee”) and established special rules and a spending-cut trigger that make their proposal more likely to pass. But Congress has been equally ineffective when it comes to addressing another important problem plaguing the economy — unemployment. Even very mild, traditionally bipartisan job creation plans are being caught up in the gridlock and killed. So, if Congress actually wants to fix unemployment, why not create a “joint select committee on job creation” and give them the same special powers they gave the deficit committee? That’s exactly what Rep. John Larson [D, CT] is suggesting:

Rep. John Larson (Conn.), chairman of the Democratic Caucus, wants to amend the recently passed debt-limit package to establish a joint select committee on job creation to operate alongside the already mandated Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to House members earlier in the week, Larson argued that the nation’s jobs crisis is only exacerbating its long-term fiscal problems and therefore demands Congress’s immediate attention.

“This high unemployment poses a very real short-term fiscal crisis, because it drains the federal coffers through increased government spending and reduced tax revenues,” Larson wrote in the Aug. 8 letter.

“Families are being forced out of their homes, children are being forced to forgo higher education, the elderly are being forced to retire early without nearly enough saved to cover their long-term costs,” he said. “If not addressed, I believe the social costs of unemployment will dramatically damage the United States’ status in the world and prevent us from emerging from this recession.”

[…]

“This would allow the Congress to simultaneously consider both our near-term (high unemployment) and our long-term (growing debt) challenges later this year,” Larson wrote. “Just like the Deficit Committee, all options would be on the table. We owe the American people nothing less.”

Put something drastic and unpopular on it as a trigger — something like Rep. John Conyers’ bill to tax Wall Street transactions to finance a direct government jobs program — and force everyone in Congress who’s talking about wanting to create jobs to put up or shut up. The ratings agency that is the American public has already downgraded Congress; recent polling data shows the highest congressional disapproval rating ever. Still, I’m guessing Larson’s letter is going to fall on deaf ears and members of Congress will do what they do every election cycle to win re-election despite low approval ratings — raise tons of special-interest money, manipulate the media, and mislead voters about their legislative records.

Rep. Larson is pictured above. 

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