Most of the media has been looking at the Republican plan as their attempt to preempt President Obama's upcoming jobs speech, and it in large part is. But interestingly, the House GOP plan can be looked at another way: a pre-emptive surrender to President Obama on certain issues just as the debt reduction supercommittee is about to begin its work. The President has been pushing for a jobs agenda some parts of which the Republicans seem to finally be acquiescing to: such as tax reform to eliminate the tax giveaway welfare state for the uber rich, passing the pending trade agreements and patent reform.
The House Republican plan, while it whines a lot about how they should be able to block any new regulations just by Congressional edict rather than lawmaking (the tool already available for them to pursue if they don't like a certain regulation), they do give way to some of President Obama's demands.
First, tax reform with revenue raising:
America’s tax code has grown too complicated and cumbersome, and it is fundamentally unfair. It is filled with loopholes and giveaways. Congress should eliminate the special interest tax breaks that litter the code and reduce the overall tax rate to no more than 25% for businesses and individuals including small business owners. This would make the tax code flatter, fairer, and simpler. Common sense changes to the tax code will ensure that everyone pays their fair share, lessen the burden on families, generate economic expansion, and create jobs by making America more competitive.Hmm, you think? Eliminate the loopholes, tax giveaways, and the tax welfare system for the uber rich and multinationals, and lower the overall rates to be more competitive. Where have we heard that before? Oh, right, the Fiscal Commission set up by the president proposed something very similar in their very progressive tax reform: proposing bringing down the individual top rate to 23% and the corporate rate to 26% after the elimination of the giveaways and spending in the tax code. What the Republicans are hoping you don't find out is that the rich takes the most advantage of the tax loopholes and deductions to reduce their effective rates far below what the average person pays, and eliminating them would in fact raise the effective tax rate on the highest income earner. And it will raise additional revenue.
In other words, if the Republicans mean what they say in their proposal, they are acquiescing to the President's demand that the rich and the multinational corporations pay a fairer share of their income in taxes. No more zero taxes for GE. No more next-to-nothing taxes for Google. No more giving extra taxpayer subsidy to oil companies. It looks like the Republicans could not ultimately keep up their facade to maintain support for corporate jet tax breaks.
Second, they committed to passing trade agreements negotiated by the president and beneficial to the American worker, and funding for programs for displaced workers.
We will pass three pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. This will be a shot in the arm for businesses small and large and will create jobs. We will build on those successes by looking for other ways to expand market access for U.S. made products while vigorously enforcing our rights to protect American jobs from unfair practices by other countries.How interesting, isn't it, that I had written previously about all three of these trade agreements that have been negotiated by the Obama administration, with labor and environmental standards written in as enforceable parts of the agreements? The Republicans have been blocking these in their zeal to bring down the economy, and now suddenly they want it passed. I wonder if the President's constant push for them as part of some things Congress can do right now to create jobs.
- Background: The independent International Trade Commission has estimated that implementation of the three pending free trade agreements would increase U.S. exports by more than $10 billion -- an increase that according to the Obama Administration, would create over 250,000 jobs.
Third, evidently even the Chamber backed ho-hums don't want to piss off the business community by blocking patent reform.
We will modernize and improve the patent system to discourage frivolous lawsuits, expedite reviews, and provide better protection for job creating entrepreneurs. Streamlining the system will make it easier for existing businesses to grow and allow more start-up companies to flourish. The House Judiciary Committee voted to approve a bipartisan patent reform bill to address these challenges.Yet another item of what the President has been pushing.
Is all this enough? No. Is the rest of the House Republican "plan" a waste of paper and ink? Yes, and actually it's worse. The rest of their proposal will make consumers and citizens less safe, and will do nothing whatsoever for the economy.
But with this document, which may well be a result of deep popular outrage at Congress and Congress' horrific approval ratings, some things are notably absent: namely the overwhelming Republican tone against cooperating with the President at all, even on issues Republicans had previously supported. One of the most glaring things to notice is the absence of the Republican hardline on how revenue must be restrained to 18% (as they wanted in their completely effed up "balanced budget amendment"), and how they would never consider any additional revenue. Gone is their pouting about how funding the training of displaced workers is a big government program. Another thing gone? Their insistence - or even mention - of the capital gains tax being zeroed out to help "job creators" (read: to give money made from money an even more favored status over money made from work).
In other words, the Republican House is looking at giving President Obama at least one (the trade agreements) and possibly three political and economic policy victories. Did this all just happen by itself? I don't think so. I think that the President's message has been getting through. People don't like the economic climate much, and they tend to blame the president for it, but in economic hard times, people also pay more attention to what the president is saying about the economy. What he has been urging Congress to do has been making sense to ordinary Americans at the same time they see Congress become a cesspool of ideological bickering rather than getting things done for the American people. So they have taken to townhalls and their members' offices and told them to get their act together. Let's hope this works.