Start the Clock on Dubya's Jobs Pledge

George W. Bush got $330 billion in tax cuts over 10 years, and the Republican Congress actually delivered more tax breaks in the first two years than Dubya ordered, so voters should hold him to his promise to deliver 5.5 million new jobs by the end of next year. That's 300,000 new jobs a month and if he can do it, he's a smarter guy than a lot of people give him credit for. We're not real hopeful, because even as the tax breaks were making their way through Congress, the unemployment rate climbed to 6.1% in May, the highest level in nine years, as nine million Americans were looking for work.

What's that Bush apologists say? Dubya only promised his "jobs and growth" tax cuts would add 1.4 million jobs by the end of 2004? Well, that many jobs would be welcome, but White House economists projected last February that the economy would gain 4.1 million jobs without any tax cuts, so tack Bush's promised job gains on top of those.

"This recession has brought a bigger contraction of private jobs than any other postwar recession," EPI President Larry Mishel said. "With private sector jobs down 2.8%, it is crucial to evaluate the administration's claims that its tax cuts will create 1.4 million additional jobs." Mishel plans to hold Bush to his promise of 5.5 million jobs and so will we. See "Grading the 'Jobs and Growth Plan' at www.epinet.org.

Bush claimed that lower taxes would produce economic growth and jobs, but in the real world taxes don't have that much to do with economic growth, as we saw after Bush-inspired tax cuts in 2001 and 2002. As the Austin American-Statesman noted, the strongest economic growth in the nation's history came during times when the highest tax rate was more than double the current 35%. Growth was 12.9% in 1936 despite a top tax rate of 79%. During World War II, Congress hiked the top rate to 88% and the economy still grew 18.4% in 1942. After the war, the economy still boomed despite a 91% tax rate, growing 8.7% during 1950. Economic growth was above 7% in 1951, 1955 and 1959 while millionaires groused about their 91% marginal rates. In 2002, when the top rate was 38.6%, the economy grew only 2.4% -- and that growth went mainly into the pockets of the same people who will benefit from Bush's dividend tax cut.

Middle-income taxpayers will get a tax break but they will still pay a greater share of all federal taxes after $2 trillion worth of tax cuts in 2001, 2002 and 2003 while the wealthiest Americans -- those earning $337,000 or more per year -- will be the greatest beneficiaries. And despite Bush's claims that most people stand to gain $1,000 or more from his tax plan, Citizens for Tax Justice (ctj.org) found that the typical tax cut in 2003-04 will be $120 and drops to zero thereafter.

So what could Congress have bought with $330 billion if they hadn't used it to cut taxes? Laura McClure and Mark Follman noted at Salon.com May 29 that the tax money could have been spent to provide health insurance for all 9.2 million uninsured children in the country ($13 billion) or we could have gone ahead and provided health coverage for all 41.2 million uninsured Americans, including children, for one year ($98 billion), with money left over to help states erase their budget deficits ($78 billion) and complete Superfund cleanup at the nation's worst toxic waste sites ($92 million). Congress also could have funded the new state and local emergency personnel the Homeland Security department says are needed in the war on terror ($12 billion) -- and still had money left over to provide the child tax credits that actually put money in the pockets of the working poor and stimulate the economy. Or Congress could have given the states $300 billion to hire an additional 100,000 teachers to reduce class size, provide grants to repair 6,000 schools and assist with new-school construction, and provide additional math and reading help for over 9 million eligible low-income students.

But the aforementioned spending plans weren't priorities for Bush. Instead we got a $75 billion open-ended war and occupation of Iraq (mainly its oilfields) because, Bush, Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell repeatedly assured us, Saddam Hussein had all those weapons of mass destruction and by golly he was prepared to use them. Too bad we can't find them now!

So start the clock on Dubya. If his tax cuts don't generate 5 million jobs by November 2004, then he loses his job.

Remember Ardmore

US Senate Democrats might need an "Ardmore moment" in their dispute with Majority Leader Bill Frist over filibusters. Frist is upset by the Democrats' blocking radical judicial nominations, so he has proposed to change the rules to guarantee an up-or-down vote by a simple majority. It is unlikely that Frist will get the filibuster rule changed, since that would require a two-thirds majority, or 67 votes. But Frist could try a controversial parliamentary maneuver to force a rule change by majority vote on the theory that filibusters on judicial nominations are unconstitutional.

If that happens, Senate Democrats should follow the example of the Texas Democrats who retreated to Oklahoma and shut down the Texas House of Representatives in May rather than submit to a mid-decade GOP gerrymandering of Texas congressional districts.

Minority Leader Tom Daschle and other Senate Democrats should use every parliamentary trick at their disposal to shut down the Senate until Bush learns that "advice and consent" means that if he wants to set somebody up for a lifetime appointment to a federal court it should be someone who can get consensus approval, not a right-wing ideologue. Daschle noted that 126 of George Bush's judicial nominees already have been approved, but Bush whines that the Democrats are blocking Miguel Estrada from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Priscilla R. Owen from the 5th Circuit appeals court in New Orleans. We think Senate Democrats already have let too many questionable nominees through. Sen. Orrin Hatch streamlined the review of nominees in the Judiciary Committee which he chairs. He pushed the nominations of Estrada and Owen, but with only 51 senators the GOP has been unable to peel off enough Democratic votes to reach the 60 needed to end a filibuster.

Republicans forced Bill Clinton to nominate conservatives to federal judiciary and the GOP wasn't shy about using every trick in its bag to shoot down liberal and even moderate nominees for district courts as well as appeals courts. Then-Sen. Jesse Helms claimed that there were enough members on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., already when he blocked Clinton's nominee for an opening on that court. (Helms changed his mind after Bush took office.) Hatch required Clinton to nominate conservatives of Hatch's choosing for federal courts before he would grant hearings on Clinton's choices. As long as Bush continues to ignore the fact that his party rules by only a razor-thin majority, but sends over ideologues and expects the Senate to salute them, Democrats should continue to use the filibuster.

If the Republicans persist in their attempts to steamroller the opposition, Democrats should remind them that the filibuster is a conservative tool to prevent bills from being considered without a consensus. When the voters have enough of Bushite plutocracy and put the Democrats back in control of Congress and the White House the GOP might rue the dismantling of the filibuster. But as long as Bush is in the White House, liberals should use it all they can. -- JMC

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