'Stimulus' becomes a dirty word as Congress works on 'jobs' 

Senate Democratic leaders this week are expected to announce the details of a jobs package that will likely include a combination of tax breaks, unemployment benefits and spending.

But some analysts say the proposal lawmakers are hinting at will do little to create jobs and is just a smaller version of the $787 billion stimulus bill that critics say did nothing to improve the nation's bleak employment picture.

"I think it is totally fair to call this another stimulus," said Harvard University economics professor Jeffrey Miron. "That is exactly what it is."

Senate Democrats disagree, saying their plan to introduce both short-term and long-term jobs bills will actually boost employment.

"It's really a jobs agenda that does just that," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. "It's a plan that I think is very meaningful."

While Democrats have gone to great lengths to defend the stimulus bill, they are working hard to distinguish it from their jobs bill.

The House recently passed a $154 billion jobs package that included $50 billion for highway and other infrastructure projects and $70 billion in aid to states, extends unemployment benefits and expands a child tax credit.

In a telephone town hall meeting last week, Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., told constituents the leadership instructed members "not to call it another stimulus bill," but rather "a jobs bill."

Sherman went on to tell listeners the bill is different in name only.

"It's pretty much similar, but smaller," than the stimulus, Sherman said, adding that it would include money for construction projects that would for the most part not be taken up until 2013 at the earliest.

The House bill barely passed with a vote of 217-212 and not one Republican supported it.

Surveys show that most Americans believe that the stimulus pushed by President Obama a year ago has either had no effect or actually harmed the economy.

Jeremy Lott, editor of Labor Watch for the conservative Capital Research Center, said the House package is a reward for unions, who would be the main beneficiaries of any new jobs the bill creates.

"These are primarily jobs for union workers," Lott said. "Most of the support will go to local governments and the majority of people who are unionized now are in state government."

Democratic leaders are working out the details of their jobs bill. It is expected to be similar to the House version but will include more tax breaks, including a payroll tax cut for companies that hire people who have been out of work for 60 days.

The Senate bill would also include the extension of unemployment benefits.

"The benefits given to people there are spent immediately so we know that works," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said, adding leaders are working on legislation that would "jump-start the economy quickly."

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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