Members of the U.S. Senate, particularly Democrats, are patting themselves on the back following the passage of a $15 billion jobs bill. The bill passed by a 70-to-28 vote, with the support of 13 Republicans, including newly elected Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown. They really have nothing to celebrate.According to critics, the bill, which among other things gives companies a break from paying social security taxes on new employees for the rest of the year, will do little to improve the employment prospects for most Americans. It will also raise the federal deficit by $12 billion over the next five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Experts say, at most, the bill will create 250,000 jobs.
"Most of the benefits will go to employers who would have hired people anyway," said Nigel Gault, Chief U.S. Economist at IHS Global Insight, in an interview. "We can probably spend our money in better ways than this."
One Democrat Voted Against the Bill, 13 Republicans Voted in Favor
Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, the sole Democrat to vote against the bill, told The Hill that he could not justify supporting the bill since 63% of the stimulus funding remains unspent.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was "disappointed" that tax breaks for businesses that it wanted were not included in the bill. "If Congress is serious about stimulating job growth and building momentum for economic recovery, an extension of these provisions would be a huge step in the right direction to achieve those goals," said Caroline Harris, director of tax policy and tax counsel, in a statement.
John Engler, head of the National Association of Manufacturers, says that he wanted the bill to "include key incentives that we believe will help spur growth and economic activity, such as the retroactive extensions of a strengthened R&D tax credit as well as other expired provisions."
Unions, of course, see things differently. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka praised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is embroiled in a tough re-election campaign in his home state of Nevada, for eliminating the tax provisions sought by the business groups. He argued that a "small" jobs bill is better than nothing.
"We need bigger and bolder actions to ensure that we create 10 million jobs and that Wall Street pays the bill to fix the financial disaster," Trumka said in a statement.
Next Stop, The House
Democratic leaders in the House are weighing whether to pass the Senate version or go to conference to reconcile it with the $154 billion jobs bill the House passed in December, according to the Washington Post. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, can barely contain their enthusiasm. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) crowed to the Post that "finally we have something bipartisan" to show the public.
That really is not much to brag about.
The $15 Billion Jobs Bill Leaves Many Grumbling