The Politics of Blah Blah Blah
So tonight, Barack Obama will deliver a major speech to Congress and the American people about jobs. From what the media says, we can expect a $300 billion stimulus-like program. Among the ideas are an extension of the employee payroll tax cuts and a new one for employers. I am all for cutting taxes, hence so far so good. But even still, the proposed employer tax cut belies the problem and will solve very little. Now for the tricky parts.
Obama is hell bent on this idea of shovel-ready infrastructure programs, including establishing an infrastructure bank. In theory and perhaps in better economic times, this would make greater sense. However, as the original stimulus proved, there is no such thing as a “shovel ready project.” Even if there was, we save- not create- some construction jobs. I doubt we will hear anything about removing the costly regulations that delay further these alleged projects. No one denies that our transportation, water and sewer systems need upgrades, repairs or replacement, but at what cost? One way to lower costs is rescind the outdated Bacon-Davis provisions. What is a “prevailing wage” today anyway? Does it make a difference if an electrician is paid $28 an hour versus $25 an hour? How about a truly competitive bidding system to get the most done with the least money? We can even let the unionized workforces bid competitively.
And what is the proposal to aid state and local governments but Obama buying the votes of the public worker’s unions with taxpayer money, the majority of which are non-union? How about in exchange for Federal help, the public worker unions make some concessions in other areas and establish true reform?
If he really wants to create high-paying jobs almost immediately and over 1 million over the next decade while making money for the Federal government, Obama can start leasing out tracts for oil exploration in the Gulf, off our coasts and in Alaska, along with natural gas drilling projects in New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. He can commit to the Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that would create jobs in several states. Of course, he would have to temper his utopian “green jobs” agenda and view of America’s future. And domestic energy programs (not “green jobs”) would make us more energy independent which has global, strategic implications. This is a win (creates job and payrolls)- win (the government MAKES money)- win (we increase energy independence) situation to most, but too commonsense for the “intellectuals” in the White House.
There is also the idea of extending unemployment benefits. Here, I sort of digress from traditional conservative orthodoxy in this area. Although there are probably examples out there, most people I know on unemployment are not “lazy” nor does extending benefits breed laziness. They are using the payments for basic life expenses, not taking tropical cruises. The fact is that there are no real jobs out there, and those that are there are low-paying that it takes two jobs to meet living expenses. People can tighten belts only so far before they feel pain. Think about a father working two jobs, or a mother and father working. Children suffer; families suffer. It behooves me to understand how social conservatives can, with a straight face, decry the dissolution of the American family yet deny economic realities. That smacks of hypocrisy to me. Regardless, if Obama wants to offer true reform in this area, perhaps a program like Georgia Works is required where the unemployed is taught a new career at no cost to the employer. This makes greater sense, but then we are talking about Obama. And the Democrats would introduce politics about eligible jobs, unions, wages, blah blah blah. In other words, let us not make this into a social engineering program but a true jobs training program.
He is also supposed to propose some mechanism for homeowners to refinance mortgages. Here we go again. Didn’t that get us into this problem in the first place? There is a mechanism- loan modification, bankruptcy, and contract law! It would be best if banks voluntarily offered some loan modification programs and perhaps they can be coaxed in that direction. Unfortunately, instead we have Frank-Dodd standing in the way as disincentive for banks. Besides, being portrayed as the bad guy repeatedly as a pawn in a Democratic Party class warfare melodrama to garner votes 14 months away is certainly what we will hear.
Personally, at this point, even the employer payroll tax cut will probably do little. Considering that employers are sitting on over $2 trillion in profits, they have learned two very important lessons. First, and unfortunately for workers, employers have learned they can be as, or more profitable and productive, with a smaller payroll. Productivity is being rewarded with continued employment, not wage and hour growth. That is the biggest “tragedy” here. Second, employers have learned that the current occupant of the White House basically cannot be trusted. Obama has created a toxic psychological landscape in the business community and among the investor class with his rhetoric and actions. They would rather just sit on that $2 trillion plus and ride out this liberal, socialist storm.
No matter what Obama says tonight, or whatever he proposes will make little difference to whom it most matters- those people in a position to actually create jobs. At this point, the only thing that will create jobs is a new occupant in the White House. And Obama probably knows this in the back of his thick skull. This will make for a particularly ugly campaign from Obama. Let us brace ourselves for the veiled charges of racism because we have the temerity to disagree with Herr Obama. After all, according to his organized labor ally Jimmy Hoffa of the Teamsters Union, we are all “sons of a bitches.” After all, we want to see people “hung from trees.”