Party leaders rely on economists to make their cases on job creation

Democrats and Republicans, deeply entrenched in a policy war over job creation, are increasingly turning to economists to bolster their arguments.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will next week be holding another economic forum, where a trusted slate of economists will offer prescriptions for fixing economy. The focus will be “specifically on the creation of jobs,” according to the Speaker’s Office.

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The panel of economists is largely unchanged from previous groups Pelosi has brought to the Capitol for consultation, going as far back as the credit freeze and the stock market crash of a year ago that triggered the current recession.

Many -- including Mark Zandi of Moody’s, Alan Blinder, a former top economic advisor and Fed official during the Clinton administration and now a Princeton economist, and Allen Siani -- helped Democrats plan for the $787 billion economic stimulus bill.  Democrats, along with their economists, have argued that the stimulus prevented the nearly 10 percent unemployment rate from being higher, while Republicans have charged that the current job numbers show it was a failure.

Zandy was an informal advisor to both John McCain and Barack Obama campaigns last year and has since been a trusted advisor to the Obama administration.

House Republicans last week assembled their own team of economists – labeled a “kitchen cabinet” by House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) – to fortify their attack on Democrats for creating a jobless economic recovery.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former top advisor to Sen. McCain’s (R-Ariz.) presidential campaign, anchored the GOP team. His first move was to fire off a memo hitting Democrats back for a letter Lawrence Summers, one of the White House’s senior economic advisors, wrote in response to a Boehner letter criticizing the lack of jobs under President Barack Obama’s watch.

On Wednesday Holtz-Eakin distributed a memo to House Republicans in which he wrote that Summers’ defense of the stimulus bill is “probably one of the reasons why we’ve lost 3 million private-sector jobs since it became law.”

“A minority (under $300 billion) of the near trillion-dollar bill cut taxes, and very little cut marginal tax rates,” Holtz-Eakin wrote, throwing his weight behind the GOP’s long-preferred approach to fostering a full recovery. “The result was no real improvement in economic incentives.”

Democrats tip-toed lightly around a Thursday report from the board that oversees the stimulus showing that $2 billion in stimulus funds spent so far by infrastructure and social program contractors led to the creation of about 30,000 jobs.

The White House Council of Economic Advisors, which had estimated that the stimulus saved or created 1.2 million jobs, stood by that assessment and said that the stimulus review board report was incomplete.

In the face of admittedly disappointing job numbers and a steady stream of criticism from Republicans, Democrats have begun to pick up the pace with which they’re looking for other legislative vehicles to spur job creation.

In addition to pushing for an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, Democrats in both chambers have begun advocating for quick action on a $500 billion highway bill as their best hope for a “future stimulus” and job creator.

And Democrats have floated the idea of transferring Wall Street bailout funds and possibly raising the gasoline tax to pay for the measure, which House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) said could initiate 8,000 road projects.


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