Schakowsky defends proposed jobs bill

Patrick Svitek

Despite grim odds of House passage, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) announced an employment plan Tuesday that would expand several aspects of President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act.

Schakowsky, whose ninth Congressional district includes Evanston, proposed a version that targets new spending on job-creating sectors such as health care, fire and police services and public park and school management, according to a press release issued Thursday by her office. The $227 billion proposal would be paid for by Schakowsky’s Fairness in Taxation Act, which hikes tax brackets for the wealthiest Americans and abolishes subsidies for oil companies.

Obama’s American Jobs Act, introduced in a joint session of Congress Sept. 8, emphasizes tax cuts in similar areas. In his prime-time address, Obama asserted his $447 billion jobs package is already funded and urged the 12 members of the legislative “super committee” to set their sights higher than the current $1.5 trillion deficit reduction goal.

As a longtime member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Schakowsky said she feels obligated to supplement the president’s proposals with more liberal alternatives. She still “wholeheartedly supports” Obama’s jobs plan in its current form, she added.

That current form would eventually generate more than 1.9 million jobs, according to initial estimates from Moody’s chief economist earlier this month. In the press release, Schakowsky pledges to boost that figure even higher to 2.2 million.

That squeezing her jobs outline through a Republican-controlled House is a nearly impossible task does not seem to bother the congresswoman.

“My bill has already had an impact on Congressional discourse,” Schakowsky said, later referring to the bipartisan panel tasked with pinpointing more than $1.5 trillion in federal budget cuts by November. “We’re also pushing those ideas for the so-called super committee, and we’re also hoping even more’s going to be incorporated in those ideas.”

In an email Thursday, NU Prof. David Zarefsky downplayed the bill’s bleak prospects, noting “it is not uncommon for members of Congress to introduce legislation that has little or no chance of passage.”

Zarefsky has taught communication studies courses in presidential rhetoric, among other historical topics. He served as president of the Rhetoric Society of America from 2006 to 2007.

“This is done by both parties and diverse political persuasions,” Zarefsky said in his email. “It is part of the legislative process.”

He added Schakowsky’s legislation may indicate various political motives, including setting negotiation terms and demonstrating her caucus’s deep concern for job creation.

His third reason – to simply impact legislative discussion – was echoed by Schakowsky, who repeatedly expressed gratitude for commanding the president’s attention.

“We’re first of all very pleased to influence that bill,” she said of Obama’s jobs solutions.

But Evanston GOP chair Blair Garber still declared Schakowsky’s bill dead on arrival when contacted Friday.

He said there is a fundamental misunderstanding of taxation’s effect on worker productivity – “whatever you tax or punish,” such as basic labor, “you get less of.”

Garber called this rudimentary concept a “harsh reality” Democrats must acknowledge before advancing a politically desirable jobs agenda.

Plus, the House’s partisan split simply leaves no room for consideration of a liberal proposition such as Schakowsky’s, he added.

“Changing the majority party is one thing, but when you bring in 60 or 80 new people that come from the Republican side, a lot of these people come from private businesses,” Garber said. “They’re not career politicians. They’re not union people. These are people who have actually run businesses and have experience creating jobs. It’s not going to get much traction.”

Schakowsky reiterated her ardent support when confronted with critics’ claims.

“I’m very pleased with it,” she said. “The bill that I have goes even further with the direct creation of jobs.”

Susan Du and Kimberly Railey contributed reporting.

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