…because I’m an economist and a mom–that’s why!

Perhaps They Should Call Health Care Reform Another “Jobs Bill”

March 11th, 2010 . by economistmom

The Senate “jobs bill” passed on Wednesday contains nearly $60 billion in (obviously-jobs-related) extended unemployment benefits.  (Here is the CBO cost estimate.)  But it also includes $34 billion in extended tax cuts, none of which are brand new (they’re “expiring” provisions, after all) nor uniquely designed to get us out of this particular recession.  These are expiring tax provisions that regularly expire and regularly get extended.  (Here is the JCT revenue estimate where you can see line by line details on the revenue provisions.)

So the extension of the expiring tax provisions is something that would occur, repeatedly, even without the vehicle of a “jobs bill.”  There really is hardly ever a tax cut that is truly “temporary” in practice, no matter how it is written into law. What the label of “jobs bill” allows is the exemption of these (effectively permanent–in good times and in bad) tax cuts from PAYGO rules, which would otherwise require that the cost of the tax cuts be offset.  The CBO estimate shows (on page 2) that out of the package’s around $100 billion in cost over ten years, $95 billion is considered PAYGO-exempt because of the “emergency” designation.

It makes me wonder why politicians don’t try to label any policy they’re trying to pass lately, especially any policy they don’t want to have to pay for, as a “jobs bill.”  The title of this tax extenders bill that happens to include the extension of unemployment benefits is the “American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act of 2010.”  As the Administration and Congress struggle to reach agreement on the health reform bill, particularly over the policies designed to keep it (at least slightly) deficit-reducing, I wonder if it won’t be long before we hear the argument that health reform–and the expansion of health entitlements and the deficit–is needed to create jobs even more than it’s needed to control costs.  When will the health reform bill get relabeled as a “jobs bill”?

7 Responses to “Perhaps They Should Call Health Care Reform Another “Jobs Bill””

  1. comment number 1 by: Carl Davis

    Next year’s annual debate over the tax extenders could look a lot different if the final bill follows the House’s lead and includes a requirement that the JCT/GAO evaluate the effectiveness of each provision. Unfortunately, the Senate version you describe has dropped this requirement… and has thereby increased the likelihood of events unfolding along similar lines next year.

    The “studies” passed by the House are of course no silver bullet, but they’re a good first step with the potential to facilitate improvements in government efficiency, the nation’s fiscal outlook, the tax code, and the current political discourse surrounding the extenders.

    You can read about the House’s studies in more detail here:

  2. comment number 2 by: SteveinCH

    I think you’re too late Diane, haven’t you heard the argument that the reason small businesses can’t hire is because of the travesty of the current health care system. Several Dem lawmakers and I believe the President made that argument during the summit.

    I didn’t understand the logic since providing health care isn’t mandatory for employers today. Now, once we have HCR, the employer mandate will not be far behind (it was already in the House bill and who knows could show up in the sidecar).

    So the logic must be: In our future system, we will require all businesses to provide health care so, in order for that not to be a burden once we insert that requirement, we will need to change the health care system.

  3. comment number 3 by: Brooks

    FYI — Republicans named to president’s fiscal commission

    Glad to see Gregg. Unsure how to feel about Ryan; I give the guy kudos for having the integrity to actually put forth a plan that would solve the long-term fiscal imbalance problem (I think), but his plan is politically unrealistic (spending-side only). Hensarling is a tool as far as a I can tell based admittedly on only a couple of things I’ve seen about him.

  4. comment number 4 by: SteveinCH

    Wondering what the Republican equivalent of Andy Stern would be, Glenn Beck maybe?

  5. comment number 5 by: Brooks


    Grover Norquist (although that wouldn’t represent as narrow a special interest)?

    Maybe some head of a trade association for Defense contractors (seeking to ensure that spending cuts are all non-Defense)?

  6. comment number 6 by: Brooks

    Re: a different kind of semantics, here’s a question regarding a semantic choice in rhetoric: Is it better for advocates of eventual tax increases and/or of reductions in projected entitlement spending to euphemistically (even if truthfully) refer most of the time to “reform” in those areas rather than generally (and upfront) stating explicitly that we are talking about tax increases and cuts in projected spending (or even more directly, cuts in benefit levels and/or eligibility vs. current law)?

    I think the former — which is quite common, and not just among politicians — is a mistake. Granted, “reform” is generally a more palatable concept and less likely to provoke a reflexive negative feeling in the minds of the audience. BUT (1) using such euphemisms undermines one of the greatest strengths of advocates of fiscal responsibility: straight talk, and (2) more often than not, those who open their comments with references to “reform” are called on the euphemism and the real meaning is exposed — often by fiscally irresponsible ideological hyperpartisans wishing to discredit those advocates of fiscal responsibility.

    What do you guys think?

  7. comment number 7 by: SteveinCH

    To be honest, I think it’s better to stick to policy rather than a characterization of the policy. And it’s better to use real language rather than rhetorical tricks.

    As an example, the deficit commission’s short term goal is not to balance the budget although the administration has artfully chosen words that might lead you to believe that this is the goal. In general, the creation of new concepts to obscure the point is deceiving. As to “reform”, my view is the public is rightly skeptical of the meaning of reform and waits to see what the reform is.

    That’s why I think Washington has gone to increasing deceptive concepts to try to hide what it is doing.