President Signs $18 Billion Jobs Bill. And Nobody Cares.

The President signed the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (HIRE) this morning, which puts $18 billion toward tax credits for employers who hire new workers in 2010. The heart of the plan, which also extends infrastructure investment through the end of the year, is a payroll tax exemption that will save employers 6.2% of any new hire's wages in 2010, plus a $1,000 tax credit for workers held more than 52 weeks. The bill is offset under PAYGO rules by giving the IRS new powers to crack down on offshore tax abuses and by delaying an obscure tax credit.

Yesterday on NPR, I said I think this bill has two sides: there's what it looks like, and there's what it can actually do. What it looks like is good. It's bipartisan (11 Republicans voted for it) and it's pro-active about reducing unemployment. What it can actually do is not so good. For $18 billion in hiring tax credits, the Congressional Budget Office predicted we won't create more than 300,000 jobs. Optimistically, this moves forward our job creation by about a month and a half.

Obama signed his first "jobs bill" the same day the Congressional Budget Office released the Washington policy equivalent of the Ten Commandments tablets: the final analysis of health care reform. On both the New York Times and Washington Post homepages as of 12:27PM Thursday, health care is the top story, and HIRE is a small tab at the bottom of the page. On Google News and Huffington Post, I can't even find a link to the jobs bill. Maybe that's the proper attention to a $18* billion bill at a time when trillion-dollar figures are losing their shock value. Or maybe it's just bad timing.

*Updated.

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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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