That reduction in the price tag of TARP, and in particular the specific number, was a tell:
President Obama will propose using $200 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to support creating jobs, White House officials confirmed Monda
The president, in an economic speech before the Brookings Institution on Tuesday, will argue that the money would be well spent by funding projects to build bridges and roads, weatherize homes, and provide other assistance for small businesses as well as the unemployed.
Republicans are starting to object, that TARP monies are specifically earmarked for deficit reduction, but that doesn’t really matter. The effect of returning the TARP funds to the Treasury and enacting a $200 billion dollar bill is basically the same. Money is fungible, after all, or so conservatives who want the Stupak amendment tell us.
Let’s look at the specific plans Obama is floating here, all of which are expected to be in the speech tomorrow:
• “projects to build bridges and roads”: That’s infrastructure spending, and there are about $71 billion in projects that have been laid out by House Democrats.
• “weatherize homes”: That’s essentially “cash for caulkers,” offering encouragements in the form of cash to homeowners to do energy efficiency improvements.
• “and provide other assistance for small businesses as well as the unemployed”: I’m assuming that “assistance for small business” includes increasing lending to small businesses, which one report last week figured at about $20 billion; and “as well as the unemployed” includes more social safety net spending, perhaps to fix the UI bill that already passed to make sure that some who will see their benefits run out don’t reach that point.
These are all decent enough ideas. We’re not hearing in that bit about the job creation tax credit, although “other assistance for small business” could include that. We’re also not hearing about direct public-sector job creation, a kind of mini-WPA which many liberals have supported. And in addition, state aid is not in that bit, either, and that is desperately needed.
As for the price tag, it strikes me as a bit low, about half of what the AFL-CIO jobs plan was floating. $200 billion isn’t nothing, of course, and if it’s targeted properly, the way it did with cash for clunkers, it could absolutely have a big impact. But the President may not be interested in investing beyond what was saved through TARP.
We’ll see exactly what gets discussed tomorrow, and FDL News will have full coverage.