We have a $180 billion dollar jobs bill likely to get a vote this week. Very few people know about it. But labor has made it a litmus test.
What’s in the bill? This was originally imagined as a “tax extenders” bill, and those expired tax breaks from the end of 2009, like the R&D credit, remain. The bill also extends to the end of the year key safety net provisions like unemployment insurance and the 65% COBRA subsidy from the stimulus package. There’s $25 billion in Medicaid funding for the states. The summer youth jobs program pushed by the Congressional Black Caucus got in here as well. There’s also a five-year extension of the “doc fix,” ensuring Medicare reimbursement rates don’t plunge (that costs $65 billion). And funding will increase for infrastructure projects through another round of the Build America Bonds program and other tax credits.
So basically, everything that’s been discussed over the last few months got mixed together into this bill. And some Democrats wanted to at least partially pay for this, so they got some tax loopholes closed:
So, what about the closing tax loopholes part? This is good. Really good.
Significant parts of the bill would be paid for by eliminating the tax incentives that encourage companies to ship American jobs overseas. The bill would prevent corporations from using current U.S. foreign tax credit rules to subsidize their foreign activities, and close a host of corporate tax loopholes that allow companies to avoid paying U.S. taxes through a variety of foreign tax credit schemes.
But here’s the best part. You know how working folks are required to pay regular income and employment taxes? Even if you are unemployed you likely have to pay the regular income tax on your unemployment insurance payments. But wealthy investment fund managers don’t. No siree. The fees they “earn” are taxed as so-called “carried interest”, a tax loophole that allows their income to be taxed at only 15 percent, as if it were capital gains.
Super-rich hedge fund managers, private equity fund managers and other high-flying Wall Street traders pay a much lower tax rate than working people do — even if you’re on unemployment! And taxpayers are left holding the bag for an estimated $2 billion a year in lost revenues due to this one loophole.
Well, they helped bring down the economy while making out like bandits — and now it’s high time they paid their fair share. This jobs bill would close their “carried interest” tax loophole.
This only partially covers the $180 billion price tag, which has made some Blue Dogs and fly-by-night fiscal conservatives nervous. But the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says that deficit concerns should not get in the way:
Concerns that the package is too large or that it should not be enacted unless it is fully paid for are misplaced. The bill includes three important but strictly temporary measures that will stimulate additional demand for goods and services and create jobs while the recovery is still struggling to gain traction; they are not permanent measures that add to the long-term budget deficit [...]
The impact of this jobs bill on the economy is strongly positive in the near term, while the impact on our long-term fiscal problem is insignificant.
Extending UI and COBRA, along with fiscal relief for the states, are targeted, temporary measures which increase demand in the short term, and offsetting the whole bill would essentially defeat the purpose. This is about as much of a “jobs bill” as we’ll get for the rest of the year, which is why labor has jumped aboard so strongly. Richard Trumka’s statement on this is nothing short of aggressive:
If you’re not for this bill, you’re not for jobs. Period.
And please, no more excuses about the budget deficit—unless and until you’re willing to make Wall Street pay its fair share to bring down the deficit. The people who are always saying “no” to jobs because of the deficit are often the same people who voted to squander our hard-earned budget surpluses so they could shower undeserved tax breaks on rich people during the Bush years. Apparently, spending money on rich people is perfectly okay, but investing in jobs for working class Americans sets off alarm bells.
Labor has basically made this bill central to their endorsement process for members of Congress.
In the midst of an unemployment crisis, measures like this are sorely needed, and we’ll see if Congress has enough sense to realize that this week.