WASHINGTON -- The Democratic Congress passed an $18 billion jobs bill last week in the dubious belief that this will have a big impact in a $14 trillion economy that lost 36,000 jobs in February.
With unemployment still skirting 10 percent -- nearly 17 percent if you include people who have given up looking for work or had to take part-time employment -- it's clear that this relatively tiny bill was sent to President Obama more out of frustration than out of any sincere belief it was going to make a dent in the growing number of jobless Americans.
Facing forecasts of persistently high unemployment for the rest of this year, the administration and Democratic leaders were still throwing more money into so-called "jobs" bills in the hope that something will work, and if it didn't, at least demonstrating their concern about what is turning out to be an anemic and jobless recovery.
Indeed, Democrats signaled they didn't have a lot of faith in last week's $18 billion bill. It will be followed by another $150 billion jobs spending bill pending in the Senate -- on top of the nearly $800 billion spending bill they enacted last year, much of which has not been spent, and won't be, even by the end of this year.
You do not need a doctorate in economics to know that such a tiny sum of money (in comparison to a nearly $4 trillion federal budget) isn't going to create a ripple in a workforce that numbers more than 150 million people.
But the few tax breaks contained in this latest bill aren't going to create many jobs. Employers would receive a $1,000 tax credit and a break from paying Social Security payroll taxes for the rest of this year for each worker they hire.
That isn't a meaningful incentive in an economy where consumers aren't buying much, cash registers are nearly empty and factory orders are few and far between. If business is poor, employers cannot afford to hire and won't until conditions improve.
"Any company that can't afford to hire today still won't be able to hire," said Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee. "Calling this a jobs bill is pure fraud."
Making matters worse, these tax breaks come with some sticky strings attached from an administration that wants to micromanage everything in our economy. New workers have to be unemployed for at least 60 days. You get that tax credit if the hired worker stays on the job for at least a year (even if he can find a better job?).