So, if Congress were actually to do something to try to help the 14 million Americans who are out of work – a number that goes higher if you count people too discouraged to seek a job – what parts of the various jobs bills should it undertake first?
Here's an analysis of the job-creation potential of Obama's plan, according to the generally pro-stimulus Moody's Analytics, and of a counterproposal from Republicans.
Obama would extend payroll-tax cuts for workers for another year and enlarge the scale of the cuts. Giving con-sumers more money to spend – an estimated $1,500 for a household earning $50,000, the White House says – would help spur private-sector job creation. The cost to the government in lost revenue next year, according to Moody's: $175 billion, with job gains as high as 750,000.
Obama would also cut for 2012 the payroll tax that employers pay, including a year-long total payroll-tax holiday for firms that expand their payrolls by hiring or boosting wages. The president also proposes a one-year extension of "100 percent expensing," an incentive for businesses to invest in new equipment now to get a full tax deduction upfront. Cost next year: $70 billion, with job gains as high as 300,000.
Proponents say the business tax cuts offer a new and direct incentive for firms to invest and hire. On the tax cut for employees, former White House economist Jared Bernstein says Congress should extend the current cut for at least another year. The alternative is to see US workers get a tax hike. "That would actively harm the economy," Mr. Bernstein says.
That argument carries enough weight that many policy analysts expect this provision to be extended.