You’ve heard the story a couple of times already, but here it is again: there’s a common-sense, fully-paid-for jobs bill up for consideration by the U.S. Senate today, but a minority of the Senate, including every Senate Republican, look poised to prevent it from even getting a vote. This time, it’s a bill that would fund hundreds of thousands of jobs on infrastructure projects.
In politics, everything is a question of priorities. On the one hand, unemployment in the construction sector is 13 percent, and these unemployed workers are struggling to support themselves and their local businesses while projects sorely needed by communities go undone. On the other hand, the bill is paid for by a small tax increase on income over $1 million. So there’s a choice to be made. Is what’s most important to the economy putting paychecks back in the pockets of hundreds of thousands of people? Or is it more important to keep taxes on millionaires at historic lows?
(And yes, it’s fair to use the word “obstruction” in this case. Senate Republicans have made unprecedented use of the filibuster, especially since Obama was elected, as a way to chew up time and prevent legislation from passing. Forcing a 60-vote threshold for bills used to be an extraordinary event—now it’s taken for granted as completely routine.)
The group of Senators poised to block this bill have made their choice. To them, asking people who make over $1 million *a year* to pay less than 1 percent more in taxes on only the income over $1 million is such a radical, unacceptable step that it’s worth keeping people out of work to prevent it.
It’s worth noting that asking these high earners to pay a little more in taxes is overwhelmingly popular, with wide support across the political spectrum. Blocking proposals like this is by any stretch of the imagination a minority, even fringe, position. Time and time again, when asked to choose between “employing people but also making a tiny change to marginal taxes on a little bit of the income of a small number of people” and “not doing those things,” overwhelming public consensus doesn’t enter into it. Jobs lose. That’s what we talk about when we talk about a political system that is titled towards the 1 percent: it’s about who benefits from the choices that get made.
(As if to perfectly illustrate this point, Republicans in the U.S. House are—at a time of 15 percent poverty rates and stubbornly high unemployment—looking at cutting funding for food aid.)
Again, this is a question of priorities. Whether out of ideological commitment, deference to big donors, or disinterest in cooperating with President Obama, every Republican Senator is likely to vote against jobs today, in defiance of public opinion.
So watch your Senators today, and learn their priorities.