What’s a Jobs Bill? Who Cares, SUE OBAMA!

July 13th, 2014
Boehner's petition to sue the president included this claim:
After years of slow economic growth and high unemployment under President Obama, they are still asking, 'where are the jobs?' The House has passed more than 40 jobs bills that would help. But Washington Democrats, led by the President, just ignore them.
Wow! More than 40 jobs bills! Why haven't we heard of this before? Must be the Liberal Media just trying to make the Republicans look bad. So, what were the bills he's talking about? There's a list of 46 “pro-growth jobs bills” on this page. One thing you notice right away is that six of the bills listed here were either signed into law or are supported by Obama. We know that because Boehner's list itself makes this clear. So, exactly how are “Washington Democrats, led by the President” just ignoring them? But hey, that's still 40 jobs bills that Democrats haven't approved! They must be anti-jobs! Let's look at the list, starting at the top. Right there is the Keystone pipeline bill that Democrats refuse to pass in the Senate. They're preventing oil from being more easily delivered from Canada! Umm, wait. That's a jobs bill? Ah. A piece of legislation called a “jobs” bill should be first and foremost focused on creating jobs. If it is focused on a very different task, even though it results in some jobs being created, then it's not a “jobs” bill. For example, let's say I write a bill proposing that all businesses must submit 100 extra pages of forms every year for some purpose or another. Those businesses will obviously need to hire more people to collect that information, confirm it, and submit the forms. Arguably tens of thousands of new jobs must be created to accomplish this task. Did I just write a “jobs” bill? No. No, a “jobs” bill is one that is at the very least mostly about creating jobs, and should be directly about creating jobs. For example, in 2012, Obama was pushing strongly to pass a bill that would give tax incentives to companies which would bring jobs now outsourced overseas back to the United States. That's clearly a “jobs” bill, as creating jobs in the United States is the primary objective. Republicans opposed it because it would make it less advantageous to hire cheap foreign labor. Then there was the “American Jobs Act” in 2011, which Obama was also pushing, and Republicans also blocked; Obama split the bill up and got a few elements passed, but Republicans stopped most of it. The bill called for suspending some payroll taxes for employers and employees; unemployment benefits and jobs training; spending for creation of infrastructure, construction, teacher, firefighter, and police jobs; prohibiting discrimination against the unemployed; and loosening regulations on creating capital for new business projects. Again, the theme of all of this is clearly to create jobs, both directly and by economic stimulation. So, how is the Keystone pipeline a “jobs” bill? The primary objective for the Keystone pipeline is to support the production and sale of controversial tar sands oil. It's kind of hard to argue that approving an oil pipeline to profit oil companies—one of which is not a United States firm—is somehow primarily an American “jobs” bill. It is, however, part of a distinctly partisan pro-corporate agenda. In fact, an estimate of the impact of the project says that the project would create only 2,000 short-term construction jobs over two years, with as many as 40,000 “indirect” jobs (providing food services for workers as one example) which are just as if not more temporary. That's a job increase worth just 15% of last month's job increases—and those are temporary jobs that would expire after two years, creating a jobs lurch whenever that happens. Remember back in 2009 when Obama was really pushing the economic stimulus, and a big part of that was to create jobs on infrastructure projects? At the time, Michael Steele and the GOP claimed that these weren't “jobs” because they were not permanent:
Steele: “You've got to look at what's going to create sustainable jobs. What this administration is talking about is making work. It is creating work.” Stephanopoulos: “But that's a job.” Steele: “No, it's not a job. A job is something that a business owner creates. It's going to be long term.” Stephanopoulos: “So a job doesn't count if it's a government job?” Steele: “Hold on. No, let me finish. That is a contract. It ends at a certain point, George. You know that. These road projects that we're talking about have an end point. As a small-business owner, I'm looking to grow my business, expand my business. I want to reach further. I want to be international. I want to be national. It's a whole different perspective on how you create a job versus how you create work.”
So, if Keystone passes, how many “actual,” that is to say, permanent, jobs would be created in America? About 50. More jobs that that would be created—but in Canada. The real profit from this would not be in jobs, it would be in the source of oil. This oil must be refined, but there is no new refining going on, we're just using a different source. Which means no more new jobs on that end, not in the United States. But wait a minute. The pipeline delivers oil, but is not the only delivery method. Is this oil that would never be delivered without the pipeline? No. It's not like we're not getting the oil—we're just transporting it by less cost-effective measure, namely rail, truck, and/or barge. Which creates jobs for people running those lines of transportation. Which are currently well-paying, permanent, full-time jobs—which will be killed by the pipeline. Then there is the fact that the pipeline will lead to higher fuel prices in the midwest, which will have a negative impact on jobs. Oil spills kill jobs over time. The costs for the pipeline will have an opportunity cost on investment in green energy, an industry which has been a true job creator and source of economic value for the United States. According to various reports, Canadian oil companies would be the biggest winners for this project, with a few jobs spilling over to the American side, which will probably be offset by job losses created by the pipeline. Oh, and tar sands oil is incredibly polluting. In contrast, look at clean-energy car technology initiatives—which created 150,000 long-term manufacturing jobs in the United States. But that's the kind of industry Republicans mock and deride. So, no, Keystone is obviously not a “jobs” bill. It's an oil-industry bill, aimed to mostly profit oil producers and refiners, mostly in Canada, with a minimal or negative jobs impact.
But hey, maybe they just really like the Keystone project, so they topped the list with it. Maybe the 39 other bills on the list are actually “jobs” bills. How about the “Offshore Energy & Jobs Act” which will “revitalize manufacturing, create jobs, and restore our nation of builders”? That's offshore drilling with the word “jobs” attached to it. There are other bills for “onshore drilling,” and for deregulating fracking, and other general “drill anywhere” and “get rid of all environmental protection regulations.” Essentially, most of the energy-related jobs bills are “drill & pollute as much as you like” legislature—which, like the Keystone project, is about energy interests making tons of money, and oh yeah, some jobs may be created in the process. Those are not jobs bills. In fact, nearly half of the “jobs” bills are actually let's-give-billions-to-morbidly-profit-rich-energy-corporation giveaways, mostly bills which attack Democratic policies to keep air & water clean and not completely wreck the environment.
But hey, maybe the other two dozen or so bills on the list are actually “jobs” bills. The first non-energy bill listed: kill Obamacare. Which would result in millions losing the first affordable healthcare they have seen in a long time, and in many other greatly beneficial policies getting struck down. But hey, the CBO said 2 million jobs would be lost! No, the CBO said that the equivalent of 2 million jobs in hours worked would be reduced, mostly from people working themselves half to death to pay for pre-ACA health care, which now they don't need and so can work less but still get the same benefits. Overall, the ACA is probably more job-neutral than anything else—primarily because it's not a jobs bill. Killing it will not create jobs, that's GOP fantasy politicking. So, what's next on the list? Oh, the next three “jobs” bills are also about killing Obamacare. Go down the list, and you'll see that they are mostly of this stripe: partisan laws trying to get Republican political agendas signed into law and Democratic political agendas repealed. Privatization of schools, half a dozen limits or prohibitions on government regulation, importing cheaper labor in high-tech industry, more attempts to get rid of the ACA, defunding welfare, spending cuts (which ironically fund jobs), cut food stamps (which are actually job-stimulative due to increase sales business), tax cuts & credits for corporations—stuff like that. You can read it on the list. Once you get past the hyperbolic “jobs, jobs, jobs!!” titles & language adorning the proposals, you will see that none of these bills are in fact focused on creating jobs, but depend on side effects (many of them fictional) to create the jobs. But the bills themselves are all about something other than jobs.
So, essentially, John Boehner and the Republicans are complaining that Obama is not passing their partisan legislative agenda which is not about jobs, but instead is about rewarding Republican constituents and breaking down Democratic ones. Of course, since then, the Republican “justification” behind the alleged lawsuit has been revealed as a delay in enforcement of the ACA for some businesses—a move which Republicans not only approved of at the time, but actually pressured the president to do in a different form—until they realized they could use it as a way to attack Obama, at which point they suddenly opposed such delays. I can imagine that a lot of Americans who are not favorably inclined towards Obama will believe that there is something to the lawsuit, but only because they do not listen, think, or study the issue seriously. They will hear Boehner and other conservatives saying something like, “Obama blah blah blah failed blah blah blah killing jobs blah blah blah shameful blah blah blah destroying America blah blah blah gerbils blah blah blah fluoridation blah blah blah therefore we must [ sue / impeach ] him.” Apparently, in conservative politics nowadays, this is what is referred to as “Thursday.”

  1. Troy
    July 14th, 2014 at 03:52 | #1

    So, if Keystone passes, how many “actual,” that is to say, permanent, jobs would be created in America? About 50.

    Gotta be more than that . . .

    Keystone would redirect oil sludge to refiners in Texas, 600,000 barrels a day so of course the backstory here is Republicans want this flow to move through their guys’ stuff and not go to Vancouver or Seattle.

    But doing the math on the rail alternative; one tanker railcar can hold maybe ~600 barrels, so that’s 1,000 tanker cars worth — at 60′ per car that’s 11 miles of 100-car trains a day, about one train every two hours I guess.

    That doesn’t seem too bad but rail shipping costs are several dollars more per barrel. While you’re correct that this is money actually ending up in paychecks and not an actual loss per se, I think it’s always good to do the most efficient thing and not try to save jobs through preserving inefficiency.

    This is all chickenshit compared to the actual problems this nation faces.

    Why is there a jobs problem when corporate profits are at record highs?

    http://patrick.net/forum/content/uploads/2014/07/screen-shot-2014-07-12-at-83338-pm.png

    and banks are sitting on $2.6T of capital to lend out?

    http://patrick.net/forum/content/uploads/2014/07/screen-shot-2014-07-12-at-83248-pm.png

    http://patrick.net/forum/content/uploads/2014/07/screen-shot-2014-07-12-at-82539-pm.png

    shows while wages have doubled since 1990, but so have housing rents (!) . . . where’s the campaign to address peoples’ major outgo — having to rent a place for such a large fraction of their wages?

    http://patrick.net/forum/content/uploads/2014/07/screen-shot-2014-07-12-at-54830-pm.png

    is personal expenditures rising as a portion of wages

    red is housing, green is healthcare, blue is gasoline

    http://patrick.net/forum/content/uploads/2014/07/screen-shot-2014-07-12-at-52757-pm.png

    is the killer though . . . total manufacturing, information, construction . . . still at 1950s levels, down SEVEN MILLION jobs from 1999.

    Another view of the jobs problem is:

    http://patrick.net/forum/content/uploads/2014/07/screen-shot-2014-07-12-at-10956-pm.png

    green is age 25-64, core working age (right axis)
    blue is full-time employees (left axis)

    showing we’re about TEN MILLION full-time jobs short of full-employment of 2007, and even more if we compare now to the good times of 1999.

  2. Troy
    July 14th, 2014 at 03:54 | #2

    http://patrick.net/forum/content/uploads/2014/07/screen-shot-2014-07-12-at-110521-am.png

    is a fun chart; blue is US age 25-54, red is Japan

    self-explanatory

    http://patrick.net/forum/content/uploads/2014/07/screen-shot-2014-07-12-at-111037-am.png

    age 15-24; curiously, the US has gained ~8M people, Japan has lost 8M people since 1992.

    Doing some reading I learned today that the Japanese gov’t did a U-turn on abortion in the postwar, being one of the first nations to legalize it, in response to the postwar baby boom that they were having a hard time feeding.

    Japan’s abortion rate was really high, so that’s the main driver behind Japan’s low birth rate, along with lack of a good “social spending” for mothers — available quality subsidized babysitting, free education (even Japan’s public system costs thousands a year).

    But here in the US, thanks to LBJ we did encourage people to have as many babies as they wanted . . .

  3. Troy
    July 16th, 2014 at 10:25 | #3

    http://patrick.net/forum/content/uploads/2014/07/screen-shot-2014-07-15-at-62334-pm.png

    another chart I made today. per-capita gov’t spending (less defense)

    quite remarkable.

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