Thursday, December 03, 2009

Words, Words, Words

It strikes me the solution here is a lot simpler than the administration is making it out to be:

President Obama shifts his focus to the double digit unemployment rate on Thursday, teaming up with members of his administration for a White House jobs summit. The event will be held on the eve of the monthly report on job losses, which in last month's study showed an October rate of 10.2 percent unemployment.

Mr. Obama is scheduled to speak at the opening of the summit, then moderate a discussion at the closing session. In between, a who's who of the executive branch will lead their own talks — among others, Energy Secretary Steven Chu on green jobs, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on small businesses and the combo of Treasury Secretary Ray LaHood and Peter Orszag of the Office of Management and Budget on creating jobs through infrastructure projects.

As The Times's Jackie Calmes reports, the summit comes as the White House is considering dipping into funds earmarked to bail out banks to aid those seeking jobs. The administration's discussions with lawmakers, Ms. Calmes writes, "reflect the Democrats' effort to balance concerns for the high federal budget deficit and a costly, crowded domestic agenda, including an effort for further economic stimulus measures that is likely to exceed $100 billion."

That initial step, dipping into the bailout fund to support job-seekers, is a good one, but it's not going to be enough, even if Bank of America makes good on today's promise.
The slippage in jobs seems to be slowing down, which is great news. Obama seems to have put a halt to the horrendously bad Bush administration's attitude towards jobs, which apparently was, let them eat grass. However, turning that around into job growth is going to be a moumental task, one for which the US economy is badly situated right now. We've doubled, tripled, even quadrupled down on debt. We'll have a hard enough time paying all that back in any short order.
But spend more, we must. We simply must, because simply put, taxes pay debt, and the more people we have paying taxes, the lower we can keep the tax rates.
So, short of all-out war, which we really can't afford anyway, how to grow jobs? Tax cuts, the past thirty years' data tells us, won't work. If anything, job growth has accelerated in eras of higher tax rates.
The knee-jerk solution, then, would be to raise taxes. That's going to happen pretty much automatically next year, as the Bush tax cuts begin to expire, and indeed, forecasts from all around the country seem to predict job growth expanding in the Spring of 2010.
Look, here's the real answer: we have infrastructure problems. We have idle hands. Let's marry the two together. It's what FDR did in the 1930s, when unemployment was really a problem. Obama should do it and do it now.
It's good to see that he's included this in his seminars and panels, as well as green jobs, but those two items pretty much go hand in hand. Green jobs are good jobs and will help with the infrastructure problem, particularly in terms of the energy grid and old wiring in urban areas.
We'll need short term...I think the term of art here is "shovel ready", but we also need to keep an eye out on the future and that means starting to put in place permanent job creation mechanisms. Yes, targeted tax credits are all fine and dandy, but we've had them and renewable energy distribution is still in its infancy, despite higher oil prices. We've had highway planning for decades, but all we've ended up with is the Bud Shuster Thruway in Western PA.
We've nibbled around the edges of a national railway program, but it's time President Obama started to pony up some ideas about that. It seems silly that a car can drive hundreds of miles on a straight highway thru the desert or high plains, but we can't come up with a competitively priced option of sticking that car on a train, saving the driver and car wear and tear.