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Working In These Times

Thursday, May 27, 2010, 7:32 am

Labor Pushes for House Passage Today of Jobs Bill, New Wall Street Taxes

BY Art Levine

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Bill would also extend unemployment benefits

Labor groups, including the AFL-CIO, are joining with House Democrats to back an ambitious bill that could save or create one million jobs while raising taxes on Wall Street investment fund managers—and close loopholes that promote outsourcing.

Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO legislative director, told In These Times: "The Speaker [Nancy Pelosi] is working as hard on this as she's done on any legislation."

While the final scope of the bill is still being finalized before today's expected vote, it will cost well over $150 billion and faces a right-wing onslaught for adding to the deficit and "raising taxes," even if on billionaires. But AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka highlighted the bill's key benefits:

This jobs bill will put Americans back to work by repairing crumbling infrastructure; stemming public sector layoffs in states; encouraging more bank loans to small business; extending unemployment benefits and health benefits for the unemployed through the end of this year; and providing over 300,000 summer jobs for unemployed youth.

He added, "If you're not for this bill, you're not for jobs. Period. And please, no more excuses about budget deficits unless you're willing to make Wall Street pay its fair share to bring it down."

UPDATE:  Politco reports that last-minute changes in the bill were underway that could bring in more moderate votes as unions battle corporations over ending loopholes:

With time running out, Democrats made deep cuts from their $190 billion-plus jobs and economic relief bill Wednesday, hoping to win over nervous moderates and muster the votes for passage before Memorial Day.

More than $50 billion in multi-year spending appears to have been trimmed from the package, chiefly at the expense of physicians serving Medicare patients...

With labor weighing in more, the behind-the-scenes maneuvering took on the character of an old-fashioned brawl, matching union leaders against a fierce business-backed lobbying campaign to derail the bill and its tax reforms affecting multinational corporations. And more than ever this year, the debate captures the budget challenges facing Democrats, whipsawed by shaky markets, the European debt crisis and fears of a double-dip recession just months before November’s elections. 

“Right now, jobs matter more than deficits,” growled American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Gerald McEntee, taking a poke at “corporate CEOs who ship our jobs overseas and stick American taxpayers with the bill.” 

The legislation, which will face an uphill battle in the Senate, also extends COBRA and unemployment benefits through 2010. If it's not passed before the recess, millions of jobless workers will lose their benefits on June 2, when the current short-term extension expires.

The Economic Policy Institute highlighted other job-related provisions in a policy brief, and, if it passes, it will be the first time since the Wall Street-created collapse the financial wheeler-dealers have been taxed to help pay for jobs programs and incentives:

As even the pro-business MarketWatch reports:

The bill aims to generate revenue by closing some loopholes. Almost $14.5 billion of foreign tax credit loopholes would be eliminated over 10 years.

Another money-raiser: Charging income-tax rates on investment fund managers' "carried interest," as opposed to the capital-gains rates they pay currently on those earnings. That provision would raise about $18.6 billion over 10 years.

It also offers direct benefits to working families and the poor:

  • $24 billion in additional funding to help states pay for Medicaid, without which there will be significant layoffs in state governments across the nation;
  • $5 billion to renew individual tax cuts;
  • $2.6 billion for a one-year extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) emergency jobs fund, which has created almost 200,000 jobs; and
  • 1 billion to create 300,000 jobs for young people this summer.

The AFL-CIO Now Blog aptly expressed the urgency labor and progressives feel about passage of the bill, given how limited jobs creation bills have been so far:

In a separate analysis, EPI estimates the legislation, which extends UI payments through the end of 2010, will provide an estimated 5 million unemployed workers with support, while ensuring access to affordable health care. But, "without this extension, over 8 million Americans will run out of unemployment insurance benefits by the end of this year. The extension will ensure that 5 million of these workers continue receiving support until the end of 2010."

Take a minute and call 877-442-6801 and urge your representative to vote for H.R. 4213 to create and save jobs and make Wall Street pay.

Art Levine, a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly, has written for Mother Jones, The American Prospect, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate.com, Salon.com and numerous other publications.

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