About a year ago, the job market looked a lot like it does now -- after a strong winter, the economy stumbled badly in May and job growth stalled. Once the Republicans' debt-ceiling crisis was resolved, President Obama shifted gears, refocused his agenda, and unveiled the American Jobs Act.
It seems like ages ago, but it was just last September when the president delivered an address to a joint session of Congress, laying out a detailed plan to boost job creation. It's easy to forget, but it was a credible, serious plan -- the AJA would have prevented thousands of layoffs for teachers, cops, and firefighters; invested heavily in infrastructure; and cut taxes intended to spur hiring.
Independent analysis concluded the plan would have a significant and positive effect. From an AP report in September:
A tentative thumbs-up. That was the assessment Thursday night from economists who offered mainly positive reviews of President Barack Obama's $450 billion plan to stimulate job creation. [...]
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, estimated that the president's plan would boost economic growth by 2 percentage points, add 2 million jobs and reduce unemployment by a full percentage point next year compared with existing law.
Macroeconomic Advisers wasn't quite as optimistic, but its analysis projected that the White House plan "would give a significant boost to GDP and employment over the near-term." The firm would expect to see the proposal create at least 1.3 million jobs.
Despite public clamoring for action on jobs, congressional Republicans reflexively killed the American Jobs Act, saying it was unnecessary. The House wouldn't bring it up for a vote, and a Republican filibuster killed it in the Senate. For GOP policymakers, this was a time when Washington should stop investing in job creation and start focusing on austerity -- lower the deficit, take capital out of the economy, and everything would work out fine.
As panic sets in after this morning's brutal jobs report, take a moment to consider a hypothetical: what would the economy look like today if Congress had followed Obama's lead, responded to public-opinion polls, and passed the American Jobs Act? In 2012, do you think the nation could use those 1.3 million jobs or not?
Are we better off now as a result of Republican obstructionism and intransigence, or would we have been better off if popular and effective job-creation measures had been approved?