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Obama's Jobs Agenda For Congress: Does It Actually Create Jobs?

First Posted: 08/15/11 03:40 PM ET   Updated: 10/15/11 06:12 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- It's become almost daily practice for President Barack Obama to point out the four things he says Congress can pass now to create jobs "immediately," if only lawmakers would act: infrastructure investments, patent reform, free trade deals and a payroll tax cut extension.

But even if all four proposals became law -- a huge "if" with a dug-in House GOP -- it's not clear they would actually create jobs. In fact, the proposals with the best shot of passing Congress appear the least likely to create jobs. One of the most likely to pass, the trade pacts, will probably cost jobs.

Obama has been injecting new urgency into the measures since early July, when he spoke during a press conference that coincided with a dismal monthly jobs report.

"There are bills and trade agreements before Congress right now that could get all these ideas moving," he said at the time. "All of them have bipartisan support. All of them could pass immediately. And I urge Congress not to wait."

He ran through all of the proposals again during a Monday town hall in Minnesota, the first of several to come as part of his Midwest bus tour on the economy this week.

"There is no shortage of ideas to put people to work right now," he told the crowd. "What is needed is action on the part of Congress. A willingness to put the partisan games aside and say, 'We're going to do what's right for the country, not what we think is going to score some political points for the next election.'"

Here's an overview of how each proposal would create jobs, or not, and where it stands in Congress.

More Investment in Infrastructure
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Obama wants Congress to create a federal infrastructure bank -- that is, a fund stashed with tens of billions of dollars dedicated solely to rebuilding the nation's crumbling roads, bridges and ports.

"Right now, there are over a million construction workers out of work after the housing boom went bust, just as a lot of America needs rebuilding," he said during the July press conference.

"We connect the two by investing in rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our railways and our infrastructure. And we could put back to work right now some of those construction workers that lost their jobs when the housing market went bust."

Of all of Obama's job-creation priorities for Congress, this is the one with the potential to put most people back to work--and fast.

But top Democratic and Republican aides concurred that the proposal has next to no prospects in Congress.

A House GOP leadership aide put it succinctly: "No money."

"It's expensive," said a senior House Democratic aide. "Harder to see us doing anything significant in near term" given the 2009 passage of the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

The idea of an infrastructure bank has also raised bipartisan concerns because it would take the decision-making process out of Congress and hand it to the administration.

There hasn't been "a clamoring for it" in the Senate, said a Republican leadership aide, because people on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works don't like the idea of handing over their control of highway construction projects to the White House.

Image Credit: Getty Images
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