First, we had the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA. Now, we have the American Jobs Act, or AJA.
These are bold new ideas! That’s why the president needed a primetime address before Congress to introduce it. And of course, they’re not calling it a stimulus. It’s a jobs act.
But in reality, ARRA and AJA are strikingly similar. Let’s drill it down “line by line,” as the president likes to say.
AJA: "Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America. Everyone here knows that we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over this country. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world."
ARRA: $29.9 for transportation improvements and $21.7 billion for infrastructure upgrading.
AJA: "Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work. These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher. But while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves. It’s unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this jobs bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong."
ARRA: $85.0 billion in education for the “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” and other related projects.
3. Jobs programs.
AJA: "Pass this bill, and hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people will have the hope and dignity of a summer job next year. And their parents, low-income Americans who desperately want to work, will have more ladders out of poverty."
ARRA: $175 million to the jobs corp, part of a total of $4.2 billion given to the Departments of Labor and Education for “Job Training / Unemployment.”
4. Unemployment insurance.
AJA: "The plan also extends unemployment insurance for another year. If the millions of unemployed Americans stopped getting this insurance, and stopped using that money for basic necessities, it would be a devastating blow to this economy. Democrats and Republicans in this Chamber have supported unemployment insurance plenty of times in the past. At this time of prolonged hardship, you should pass it again – right away."
ARRA: $60.8 billion in new unemployment insurance compensation, plus a $3.7 billion expansion of COBRA.
5. Miscellaneous tax credits.
AJA: "Pass this jobs bill, and the typical working family will get a fifteen hundred dollar tax cut next year. Fifteen hundred dollars that would have been taken out of your paycheck will go right into your pocket."
ARRA: Total “tax benefits” of $298.5 billion, spread across individuals and businesses.
Much of Obama’s speech from last night was directly imported from other addresses. It was full of his usual tropes – strawmen characterizations of his opponents, a soaring paean to American greatness that only ever mentioned big government, and the typical denunciations of “politics as usual,” implicitly defined as everything that hurts his political prospects in 2012.
And here we can see how the policies are just old leftovers from previous Obama proposals that haven’t really worked.