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Democrats in Washington, D.C., have taken a lot of shots at Republicans recently for not introducing a “jobs bill.” Conservatives, they say, are far too concerned with government spending and not concerned enough with “putting people back to work.”
After a few months in Washington, I’ve gotten used to this sort of finger pointing. But I still think it’s important to explain exactly what each side’s position is, and also let you know what Congress has been up to so far this year.
First off, what is a “jobs bill?”
The short answer is that the definition of a “jobs bill” depends on who you talk to. If you ask a Washington Democrat, you will learn that their idea of a jobs bill looks much like the “stimulus” bill of two years ago. It includes money for state governments, money for more government workers, money for “green” energy companies and money for “investments” like high-speed rail. Generally speaking, most Democrats in Washington (and some Republicans) believe that during a recession, increasing government spending helps the economy, and borrowing money to do that is just a necessary evil.
Their policy hero, an economist named John Maynard Keynes, even argued that a government program that pays one person to dig ditches and another person to come behind him and fill them up is an effective stimulus. The work they do doesn’t matter as much, he argued, as long as the government puts money into the economy. This is also sometimes called the “broken windows” plan. It’s the idea that if someone ran around breaking everyone’s windows, that would be an economic stimulus because it would increase the demand for people who know how to replace them.
And while that might strike many folks here at home as ridiculous, in Washington it represents the mainstream of economic policy and thinking. Go figure.
On the other hand, for conservatives (of both parties), a “jobs bill” is something completely different. Instead of the government picking which companies or people should get funding and which should not, we prefer to give those folks incentives to do what they do naturally – produce and grow. We think that it’s wasteful for Washington bureaucrats to use tax dollars as if they know best how to run a business.
So the Republican-led House has passed bills that reduce the tax and regulatory burdens that individuals and businesses face. That way, all businesses can take money that would have been used for fines and fees, and use it to expand and hire new workers. We have also introduced a bill that would shrink the size of government by cutting the federal workforce by 10 percent through attrition; for every three federal workers who retire, we would only hire one new federal employee.
We actually got that idea by studying what plans were passed by the Republican Congress and former Democrat President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
What we found was that when the government spent more, businesses spent less. When the government spent less, businesses spent more. And when businesses could spend more, people went back to work.
These are “jobs bills” – the ones that reduce the size of government, reduce regulation and let people and businesses thrive – that have helped our economy grow before, and they can do so again. They are also proposals that, by cutting back the size of the government, also cut government spending.
And with a national debt of $14.3 trillion, we can use as many of those ideas as we can get.