Senate Jobs Bill: It's Bipartisan. But Will it Work?

Witness the fruits of bipartisanship! The Senate jobs bill passed a key hurdle yesterday with five Republican votes, including newly minted GOP Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts. This wasn't the crucial vote, mind you, but rather a vote to allow voting. Yet the press is treating the event not unlike a solar eclipse. Read only the headlines, you could be forgiven for thinking the official name of the Senate bill was in fact the Scott Brown Voted For This! Act.

Indeed, the news is all about Brown casting one of the five rank-breaking votes. He revived the moderate Republican wing! He is the twinkle in the faint glimmer of bipartisanship! He cast a hard vote for America, hateful Facebook messages be damned! Know hope.

So this jobs bill. Does it do anything?


Eh, would be my answer. To provide some context, this bill is Sen. Harry Reid's $15 billion response to the Sens. Baucus and Grassley's $85 billion bipartisan retort to the House Democrats' $150 billion jobs plan. It's like the baby girl within the Russian nested dolls, sharing the resemblance, if not the impressiveness, of its babushkas. To get a read on how many jobs it could produce, we turn to a helpful blog post by Doug Elmendorf of the CBO:

Through its effects on wages, prices, and profits, the policy would add 8 to 18 cumulative years of full-time-equivalent employment in 2010 and 2011 per million dollars of total budgetary cost, measured in terms of lost revenues. Thus, the budgetary cost of increasing employment by one full-time person for one year would probably be between $56,000 and $125,000.

By the CBO's count, $15 billion could create the equivalent of 120,000 and 270,000 full-time jobs for one year. That's not chump change. But the country would need 200,000 new jobs created each month for the next seven years to hit 5 percent unemployment by 2017. We're not talking about a game changing policy. Its impact on employment -- like the bipartisan gesture that helped move it to a final vote -- will be small and likely without consequence.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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