The long and winding road to the American Jobs Act

It is nice to see that good public policy research can make its way down the long and winding road of idea to proposal to … (dare to dream) legislation?

Last night, President Obama called for the passage of an American Jobs Act, which would spend nearly $450 billion on aid to unemployed workers and strapped state and local governments, infrastructure spending (with school renovations and improvements singled out for lots of this spending), and tax cuts for both workers and businesses.

The size and composition of the American Jobs Act looks a lot like the American Jobs Plan that EPI forwarded in December 2009. This is a good thing not just for EPI’s ego, but for the future of the American labor market. You see, the similarities in these plans aren’t evidence that EPI has some mammoth influence on the administration, instead both plans are simply based on a solid consensus of what applied economists know about what would actually work to reduce joblessness fast.

Now, we will pat ourselves on the back for a couple of things. We got the depth of the downturn and the stubbornness of the recovery right in real-time – before, unfortunately, most of our policymakers. We also have been calling all along for lengthy and generous unemployment compensation and for infrastructure spending – particularly on schools – to be a major part of stimulus. It’s extraordinarily efficient stimulus and the main strike argued against it (it’s too slow in being rolled out) never made much sense to us – because we knew early-on how long unemployment would remain elevated and how much job-growth would be needed to combat it. And, we argued that if you must make business tax cuts part of a jobs-plan to garner wide-spread support, you should at least tie these tax cuts directly to firm’s hiring decisions to maximize their bang-for-buck.

It’s a shame that policymakers’ attention drifted from job-creation for a year or more, but at least it’s back on the front-burner now. EPI was just one cog in the machine arguing for this renewed focus, but we’re happy it’s arrived and want to do what we can in the coming months to make sure that as much of this well-considered jobs-plan makes it through the (sure to be) brutal legislative process as possible.