Anticipating the president’s “jobs speech” next week, congressional Republicans, led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, are trotting out their own “jobs agenda.” And it is heavily focused on firmly positioning the U.S. economy at the north end of a southbound brontosaurus when it comes to the emerging global energy and environmental sectors. Steve Benen sums it up nicely:
Cantor sees an economy lacking demand, a public sector shedding jobs, workers with stagnant wages, and anemic growth, and has apparently concluded, “What we really need right now is deregulation.”
And what kind of regulations are being targeted? High on Cantor’s list are measures that limit the amount of mercury and other toxins that boiler and incinerator operators can burn into the atmosphere.
In case this isn’t obvious, Cantor’s plan is a poor jobs agenda. Indeed, it’s not really an agenda in any meaningful sense at all. Republicans have been pushing for deregulation efforts like these for decades — Cantor isn’t responding to a changing economic landscape and new demand-driven challenges with a tailored package of policy solutions; Cantor is just listing a bunch of safeguards Republicans want to scrap anyway.
There’s just no depth of thought here. The GOP leadership believes businesses might hire more if, for example, they were allowed to pollute more, while Democrats believe business might hire more if they had more customers.
It’s reasonably clear Republicans are worried that their anti-government agenda isn’t exactly coming across as responsive to the country’s economic concerns. But they are, to use a legal term, “estopped” from promoting stimulative efforts, even those involving the kind of tax cuts that might have an immediate impact, by their deficit rhetoric. So it’s not surprising they are dusting off lobbyist-driven “pro-business” initiatives that continue the attack on government but in a way that can be advertised as directly helping “job creators.”
This GOP “jobs agenda” will probably be worth a few points in areas of the country that could theoretically harvest some jobs from exposing the rest of us to poorer air and water quality, while ensuring our energy sector remains far behind the cutting edge of innovation. It ain’t much, but it’s all they’ve got.