Veterans Jobs Bill Not Nearly Enough
Yesterday, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve tax credits for employers who hire veterans -- the final vote was 95-0, making this the first component of President Obama's jobs proposal to receive any support from Republicans (and unanimous support, at that).
I may be going out on a limb here, but my guess is that this sudden surge of bi-partisan cooperation actually has very little to do with veterans at all.
Many have explained this sudden turn-around in GOP support as a simple matter of political expediency: the Republicans could not afford to vote against America's veterans, particularly not on the eve of Veterans' Day, and especially given the high esteem in which veterans are held by the American public.
Except -- many Americans view cops, firefighters, and teachers as everyday heroes as well, and just two weeks ago the Senate GOP voted unanimously to block federal funding that would prevent mass layoffs of precisely these Americans.
So taking widely unpopular positions is clearly not a big concern of the GOP. But another explanation remains: the proposal for supporting veterans was designed as a tax credit, whereas the proposed support for firefighters and police officers was in the form of direct aid to state and local governments. One could argue that the GOP is committed to their belief in the effectiveness of tax cuts over direct spending as a form of economic stimulus, and therefore was holding a principled stance against what they perceive to be bad policy.
And yet -- the next component of Obama's jobs proposal is a major payroll tax cut for all workers, saving the average American family about $1,500 per year, and Republican opposition is already through the roof: so much so that strategists in the Obama administration are looking to schedule this vote as close as possible to the end of December in an effort to force the GOP to vote on a tax increase right before the holiday season.
So it's neither a special concern for highly-revered Americans nor a principled committment to tax cuts that explains this sudden support from the GOP for Obama's jobs proposal. So what explanation is left?
I can only guess that, unlike previous components of Obama's jobs plan, this is the first one where Republicans get it both ways: credit for at least doing something, without the "cost" of potentially supporting a proposal that could actually make a meaningful difference. These tax credits for veterans amount to only $1 billion out of the total $447 billion jobs package that President Obama proposed -- they are, in other words, small potatoes that are likely to have, at best, a mixed effect on the employment prospects for veterans (and a completely negligable effect on the economy overall).
In other words, we shouldn't celebrate the passage of these tax credits as a victory of bipartisan support for America's heroes. It is, rather, just another example of what passes for progress in Washington today: symbolic gestures with no substantive value.