Jobs act: Another costly government debacle?

Can the government create jubs by sinking the nation billions of dollars further into debt? That is a question the Senate faces as it tackles a jobs bill in the first month of the new year.

Republicans say the “Jobs for Main Street Act” is nothing more than another expensive government program that will spend money, raise the deficit and create few, if any jobs. The House passed the act 217-212 in the closing days of the December term. No Republicans voted for the bill.

The bill for the jobs act is $174 billion.  Critics say it is nothing more than another ill-fated “stimulus plan,” comparing it to the $787 billion economic plan that spent more and produced few jobs and little stimulus.

Democrats claim otherwise, claiming the bill will produce $75 billion for infrastructure and public sector investment and creates thousands of new construction jobs, 5,500 more cops on the street, 25,000 new AmericCorps members, 250,000 summer jobs for poor and disadvantaged youth along with 14,000 part-time jobs for parks and forestry services.

Critics say such jobs — if they are in fact created — are seasonable at best and would not have a positive, long-term effect on the economy.

Democrats in the House steered $75 billion away from the Wall Street bailout program to offset some costs which critics decry as a shell game that defeats the plan to put unused bailout money towards reducing the deficit.

Some Washington watchers think the Senate will be less inclined to support another costly stimulus program, particularly in an election year.

On Jan. 20 Congress will vote again to raise the ceiling on the government’s total debt, which current stands at $12.4 trillion.