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Should Congress Pass Obama’s Jobs Bill In Pieces?

Filed by KOSU News in Politics.
October 31, 2011

President Obama has traveled around the country in recent weeks, promoting a jobs package that would cut payroll taxes, spend billions on infrastructure and help local governments avoid layoffs of teachers and first responders.

While the president’s plan as a whole failed in the Senate in October, he has urged lawmakers to pass the bill’s component parts one by one. Supporters argue that if Congress does nothing, the U.S. economy may go through another recession.

But critics say the jobs package just recycles policies that have failed in the past.

A group of experts argued the merits of the president’s jobs plan on Oct. 25 as part of the Intelligence Squared U.S. series. Two experts argued for the motion, “Congress Should Pass Obama’s Jobs Plan — Piece By Piece,” and two argued against in a debate moderated by ABC News’ John Donvan.

The audience at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts voted 45 percent for the motion and 16 percent against before the debate began. Thirty-nine percent were undecided. After the debate, the side arguing that the president’s jobs plan should be passed in pieces claimed victory, with 69 percent of the audience voting for the motion. Twenty-two percent were opposed and 9 percent still undecided.

Those debating:


Cecilia Rouse is a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University. Her primary research interests are in labor economics with a focus on the economics of education. In 1998-99, Rouse served a year in the White House at the National Economic Council and from 2009-2011 served as a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Rouse has served as an editor of the Journal of Labor Economics and is currently a senior editor of The Future of Children.

As chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, Mark Zandi directs the company’s research and consulting activities. Zandi’s recent research has studied the determinants of mortgage foreclosure and personal bankruptcy and analyzed the economic impact of various tax and government spending policies. Frequently testifying before Congress, Zandi is an adviser to policymakers on topics including the economic outlook, the merits of fiscal stimulus, financial regulatory reform, and foreclosure mitigation.

AGAINST THE MOTION Richard Epstein is a professor at the New York University School of Law, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago. He has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1985 and a senior fellow of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago Medical School since 1983. His books include Design for Liberty: Private Property, Public Administration and the Rule of Law.

As a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, Daniel Mitchell focuses on tax reform and supply-side tax policy, advocating for a flat tax and international tax competition. Before joining Cato, Mitchell was a senior fellow with The Heritage Foundation and an economist for Sen. Bob Packwood and the Senate Finance Committee. He also served on the 1988 Bush/Quayle transition team and was director of tax and budget policy for Citizens for a Sound Economy. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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