But Congress failed to approve a 50 per cent cut in employers’ payroll taxes — a business tax cut that many Republicans favoured in the past and that ranks high on budgetary effectiveness. Nor did Congress approve $30 billion in federal grants to states to enable them to employ about 135,000 teachers, police, and firemen, despite strong voter support. Such grants between 2009 and 2011, totalling $130 billion, helped states to maintain vital services and retain the public employees providing them.
Romney opposes more federal money for the states, arguing that “it is time to cut back on government and help the American people.” But teachers, firemen, and police are American people who help other American people. Government employment is falling at the fastest rate since the 1940s, and is now at its 2006 level. If public employment had grown during the last three years at about the same rate as the population, as it did during George W. Bush’s presidency, the unemployment rate would be around 7 per cent rather than 8.2 per cent, owing to about 800,000 additional jobs.
Likewise, Congress failed to approve Obama’s call for $90 billion in additional infrastructure spending, which would have supported about 400,000 jobs, despite the fact that the US has at least $1.1 trillion in unfunded infrastructure needs. Moreover, infrastructure investment not only creates jobs in the near term, but also promotes long-term competitiveness.
Altogether, Congress left at least one million jobs on the negotiating table, holding unemployed workers hostage to the outcome of November’s election.