Rep. Paul Ryan: "Obviously Infrastructure Does Create Jobs," But Businesses Need "Certainty"

September 15, 2011 1:31 pm ET — Kate Conway

Perhaps what lends Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) his unwarranted reputation for "seriousness" is his ability to come promisingly close to a reasonable economic position before, inevitably, veering sharply away to settle on standard GOP bluster. This morning on MSNBC, the budget committee chairman told the hosts of Morning Joe that he liked the idea of infrastructure projects in the president's jobs bill, since "obviously infrastructure does create jobs." But then, rather than defending that 'obvious' job-creating mechanism, Ryan insisted that the real way to solve unemployment is to tackle — you guessed it — "uncertainty."

RYAN: The infrastructure — I think you guys were talking about that earlier, that does work, obviously, and we've been planning long this fall for doing our transportation bill. The problem with that is it takes a long time to get it through the pipelines. That's not instant jobs, like some people try to market it. There's a lag time to that. But obviously infrastructure does create jobs. I don't think you can really deny that. [...]

Here's the deal, Joe. I spent the month of August talking to employers. I just did a town hall meeting the other night talking to small business people, who are saying, "Give us certainty. These little temporary shots, they don't do anything for me, because I need to plan for the future, and when I don't know what my tax rates, what the regulations and all these things with the cost of business are going to be in the future, that really messes me up." So they need certainty, and that's why I think tax reform. Right now they're facing a steep tax increase in 2013, this new stimulus package the president's pushing has another new tax increase in 2013 built into it. That encourages destabilization. That encourages more uncertainty. So let's deal with certainty on regulations, let's deal with certainty on taxes.

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The "uncertainty" bit is a line congressional Republicans have been feeding to anyone who will listen over and over, despite bewildered reminders from businesspeople themselves that uncertainty is not keeping them from hiring. The problem is low demand — companies don't need new employees to make their products if consumers are not buying those products. But "uncertainty" is just such a nice box into which the GOP can stuff all the different policies they want to get rid of: more equitable, budget-balancing taxation, health care reform, regulations that preserve the safety and wellbeing of workers, and even reform of the predatory financial sector.

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