As noted last week, Senator Jeff Merkley had a brilliant little idea - that the CBO should score the Super Committee's budget proposal not just on how it impacted the budget, but also on how it impacts jobs.
Merkley's idea is now picking up steam. Over on DailyKos, they're running a petition asking folks to stand with Merkley to support two basic principles that encapsulate the idea:
Independent review: The Super Committee's budget package should be given an independent review by the Congressional Budget Office to measure how many jobs it would create or eliminate.
Do no harm: Reject any budget package that would cost more jobs than it creates.
As Merkley notes in his own blog post on DailyKos:
By signing this petition, you amplify my voice. You make it clear that thousands of Americans are standing with me - and my fellow progressive Senators - to insist that we create jobs, not cut them.
Meanwhile, big players are already jumping on Merkley's bandwagon. As noted by the Washington Post, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka has signed on:
Senator Merkley’s plan is the kind of common sense initiative that is too rare in Congress. We are in the middle of a jobs crisis and the last thing we should be doing is passing legislation that kills jobs. Senator Merkley’s amendment would help the Super Committee avoid proposals that kill jobs. We strongly urge all elected representatives of both parties to support this effort.
Similar support comes from AFSCME's Gerald McEntee:
As the Super Committee embraces their charge to reduce the deficit by more than a trillion dollars, we urge them to embrace Senator Merkley’s proposal to report the jobs impact of their decisions. The Super Committee should focus on doing what’s right and get our country back to work. No more political gamesmanship that leaves struggling families out in the cold yet again.
Of course, not everyone is throwing bouquets in the Senator's direction. Cue the naysayers at the Big O:
But can the CBO really evaluate job creation with any precision? "Scoring" on this front in any detailed way would not appear to be practical. That means the agency would be reduced to generic advice of the sort that the senators and representatives should already be able to recite by heart.
To be sure, economic forecasting is inexact. No one can tell you that a particular bill is going to create exactly 47,384 jobs. But it seems reasonable that the CBO would be able to tell us whether the budget package is going to create or eliminate jobs - and what the magnitude may be; thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions.
Simply asking the question is a huge leap forward. Too often, we have politicians making wild claims about job creation based on ideology and wishful thinking. To ask nonpartisan and independent analysts to weigh seems like a no-brainer.
Here's hoping the leadership of the Super Committee thinks so too.