Rabe in HuffPo on likely impact of Republican jobs bills

December 2, 2014

Barry Rabe was one of five policy and economic experts tapped by the Huffington Post to examine the merits of the 40-plus jobs bills Republicans have tried to pass in recent years. While the majority of the bills have stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate, many are expected to make a comeback when the new Congress, with its new Republican-controlled Senate, convenes in January. Rabe, an expert in environmental policy, was asked to analyze bills aimed at deregulating the energy sector.

Republican leaders claim deregulation will promote job creation by “saving companies a lot of money they now spend complying with federal rules,” according to the article’s authors, Akbar Shahid Ahmed and Sam Levine.  After reviewing the proposed legislation, Rabe was unconvinced. In the short-term — the period in which Americans are looking for more jobs — he said it’s difficult to measure the economic impact of the bills. Rabe also added that he thinks many of the environmental and energy bills are more of a symbolic response to what Republicans view as Obama's overreach. He specifically mentioned measures that attempt to block the president’s environmental goals by limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to enforce or establish emissions standards for power plants.

"It's very hard to know [the economic impact of such legislation], especially if you take the case of the clean power plants," Rabe said. "We're talking about transitions for 2020 and even 2030. So it's really hard to even begin to estimate what impacts these would have, and because the EPA plan gives [the states] so many different ways to potentially comply, it's hard to know what the jobs impacts are going to be.” He did, however, concede that a few of the bills could result in short-term economic gains, though whether they lead to job growth depends on provisions not present in the current set of bills.

Rabe’s general sense of skepticism was shared by the other experts who reviewed the remaining bills. The consensus among those consulted was that few, if any, of the jobs bills were “likely to have the measurable, immediate impact on job growth” that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says Republicans will deliver.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, however, said he was unimpressed with the experts' findings. “Notwithstanding cherry-picked ‘expert’ opinions, the American people understand that expanding the supply of domestic energy, reducing regulations, improving education, and cutting wasteful spending will help our economy grow and create jobs,” Steel said in an email response to the Huffington Post.

Barry Rabe is the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Professor of Public Policy, Arthur Thurnau Professor at the Ford School, and director of the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP). He holds additional appointments in the Department of Political Science, the Program in the Environment, and the School of Natural Resources and Environment. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Much of Rabe’s recent research examines sub-federal development of policies to reduce greenhouse gases in the U.S. and other federal systems. In 2006, Barry became the first social scientist to receive a Climate Protection Award from the Environmental Protection Agency in recognition of his contribution to both scholarship and policymaking.