What's better for Democratic candidates -- jobs bill, or ...

The Hill explains Harry Reid’s lack of urgency in scheduling Barack Obama’s jobs bill — perhaps better than Alexander Bolton intended.  Reid has put the Americans Jobs Act off to the side while he pursues presumably more important legislation, which attacks China over its currency manipulation.  It has no chance of passage, and even if it did there seems to be at least a significant chance that Obama might veto it.  So why is Reid prioritizing China-bashing over Obama’s jobs plan?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has made it clear that he will not schedule a vote on President Obama’s jobs package until after the upper chamber moves a China currency bill that the administration does not support.

Reid is wielding a significant amount of leverage with the White House on the China legislation, which is unlikely to be signed into law in the 112th Congress. Yet passing the bill through the Senate — which is expected to happen next month — would help Democratic incumbents on the campaign trail, where China-bashing usually resonates.

The bill would crack down on what critics contend is China’s policy of manipulating currency to give its companies a trading advantage. The Obama administration is not eager to confront China over its currency policy, but congressional Democrats are eager to tackle it — especially politically vulnerable Democratic incumbents in Midwestern states. They include Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), whose states’ economies have suffered because of a steady outflow of manufacturing jobs to China.

Any action against China on trade would likely lead to a response that would harm US exports.  In better economic circumstances, that might be worth the risk — China undoubtedly manipulates its currency to disfavor exports from the US and others — but these are not better economic circumstances.  If this escalates into a trade war, we will sustain a significant amount of damage at a time when we really can’t afford more economic shocks, either here at home or abroad.  It won’t produce jobs here at home, but it could start wiping more of them out, especially in export areas and manufacturing.  Rising prices won’t help consumers here, either, leading to less consumer activity and a further economic slowdown.  Obama may or may not veto such a bill, but it’s probably not going to pass the House anyway, which makes this a campaign stunt more than a p0licy debate.

And that’s what is so fascinating about Reid’s priorities in scheduling the bills.  If Reid thought the jobs bill would help Brown, Stabenow, and Casey, he’d trip over the Senate carpeting to get AJA on the floor.  By pushing his China currency bill ahead of the AJA, Reid is not just conceding that Obama’s bill won’t pass, but that it’s not going to help Democrats whether it passes or not.  He’s almost certainly right, as Republicans would love to tie a proposal to spend another $450 billion in borrowed money — borrowed at least in part from China, the very nation Reid wants to punish — on the same kind of gimmicky, short-term government interventions that Obama wasted on Porkulus in 2009.

Now that Democrats and Republicans alike agree that Porkulus II: Economic Boogaloo is an albatross, can we get serious about reversing the regulatory adventurism and class-warfare policies that have stalled the economy and job creation?

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John Sexton 1:00 PM on February 01, 2023