This whole debate about government stimulus versus austerity, and the impact of these policies on economic growth, misses a key point: It is business, not government, that creates jobs.
The economic power of business is the missing link in the faux debate that is now raging over spending and deficit policies. A brief look at the recent jobs report for June tells this story. After spending more than $1 trillion through so-called government stimulus, we are at best experiencing a grinding and anemic jobs recovery. Private payrolls are growing slowly. The workweek is again shrinking. And average hourly earnings have declined. The unemployment rate dropped to 9.5 percent, but that’s because 650,000 people left the labor force.
Most troubling, the household survey, which captures small owner-operated business employment, dropped 300,000 following a decline last month. In other words, this leading indicator is moving in the wrong direction. More generally, recent economic data suggest that the rate of recovery could be slowing to only 2 percent, or even less. Some fear a double-dip recession.
So what about all this stimulus spending? Well, it hasn’t worked.
When you look at the recent GDP reports, you find that the government contribution to economic growth has been about zero. This is because transfer payments don’t contribute to the output of goods and services. We’ve had three recovery quarters where inflation-adjusted GDP growth averaged a sub-par 3.5 percent. But the federal contribution has been only two-tenths of 1 percent, while the state and local government contribution has been a small drag of three-tenths of 1 percent. In other words, a wash.
Liberal-left Nobel Prize winners like Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz believe government spending should be increased substantially. But if it hasn’t worked up to now, why should we believe it will ever work? Taxing or borrowing from Peter to pay Paul does not create new investment or jobs. Nor do extended unemployment benefits.
Businesses create investment and jobs. I call it business power. And this power has been totally ignored in the debate over economic policy.
In a watershed study, former Treasury economists Gary and Aldona Robbins argued a few years ago that tax cuts aimed at capital and business produced the biggest economic benefits. For example, for every tax-cut dollar on capital gains, $10.61 of new GDP is created. For every dollar of accelerated business-investment tax write-offs, $9 of new GDP is created. And for every dollar of corporate tax cuts, $2.76 of new GDP is created.
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