The GOP won an overwhelming majority in the 112th Congress because of the power of one simple question: "Where are the jobs?" So, how has Congress done this year?
Quoting from Ezra Klein's Wonkbook:
…So though there's a lot of talk about the deficit, there's not actually a lot of economic pressure to do anything about it. But the same can't be said for another neglected category of policymaking: jobs.
There has been less done for the jobless than for the deficit. After all, the debt-ceiling deal did lead to $900 billion in cuts to domestic discretionary spending, and to the spending trigger that threatens to make a trillion more in cuts starting in 2012. But the jobless? Save for a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance benefits, they got nothing.
And unlike the deficit, which isn't yet causing problems in the American economy, joblessness is an ongoing crisis. The unemployment rate is 8.6 percent. If millions of discouraged workers hadn't left the labor force, it would likely be in the double digits. That's led to immense suffering for the unemployed and their families, and also less consumer spending, more foreclosures, and a general prolonging of the economic crisis.
There are things Congress could do that would help the jobless. Infrastructure investment, for instance. A bigger payroll tax cut. A massive effort to refinance the mortgages of creditworthy borrowers. Burying sacks of cash out in the Nevada desert. But Congress isn't doing any of them. And unlike with deficit reduction, it didn't even spend the year obsessing over how to do any of them. It wasn't until September, when President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act, that the political system even began talking about job-creation proposals again.
This has been a key theme of 2011: For reasons that defy any of the signals we're seeing in the actual economy, Congress -- and, for much of the year, the president -- has been obsessed with finding a deal on deficit reduction and relatively resigned on policies to create jobs. In part, that's simply because the Republicans in Congress were (and are) staunchly opposed to further stimulus but seemed willing to work with Democrats on the deficit, and the political system prefers to focus on things it can do rather than things it can't. In part, it's because, for most of the year, Democrats were willing to go along with Republicans who wanted to talk about the deficit rather than job creation measures -- note that they didn't, for example, demand, as part of the debt-ceiling deal, that the supercommittee also come up with jobs proposals.
But the end result has been very weird, like watching the doctors of a patient with acute pneumonia spend a year discussing the best way for the patient to lose weight.