The Keystone XL pipeline addition to the
Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act (AKA: the payroll tax cut Bill) is a contentious issue not because it is unrelated to jobs, but because it is hard to trust Republican motives.
Extending the payroll tax cut would put on average an additional $1000 into the pockets of middle class workers. Put another way, without the extension, over 160 million middle class workers will have to pay an additional $1000 next year, which in an economic recovery is a bad idea.
The payroll tax cut might cost about $180 billion. However, on this same logic, extending the Bush tax cuts might amount to an additional $3.3 trillion to the national debt between 2012 and 2020 according to an August 2010 Congressional Budget Office report.
On MSNBC's 14 December 2011 show "Morning Joe", according to Joe Scarborough the Republican argument for inserting the Keystone XL pipeline provision into the Bill is that the payroll tax cut did not create jobs last year, but the Keystone XL Pipeline will create jobs and will help us get off of foreign oil.
There is at least one problem with that argument: the Keystone XL Pipeline is still foreign oil -- it is oil from Canada. Moreover, there are other and perhaps better ways to create jobs. And moreover, the payroll tax cut can be paid for.
If Republicans are concerned about foreign energy dependence we could invest in green and renewable technologies, which would 1) create jobs, 2) truly get us off our dependence on foreign oil and 3) not have the environmental consequences associated with oil extraction and consumption.
Why are Republicans once again pushing a big oil project over weak reasons?
More than the argument about the tax cut not creating jobs. More than the argument about dependence on foreign oil. And more than the argument about the tax cut not being paid for. Republicans would financially benefit from the Keystone XL Pipeline. It is no secret that Republicans receive more in campaign contributions from big oil than do Democrats.
This seems to be another example of Republicans using indefensible reasons to push their way on a big money issue. Republicans are known for being cozy to big oil because it results in campaign contributions.
At the core of this issue trust. Republican motives on inserting a provision to extend the Keystone XL pipeline do not pass the sniff test.
PAUL HEROUX is a graduate of the London School of Economics and the Harvard School of Government. He can be reached at PaulHeroux.MPA@gmail.com.