No more Jobs Programs … Please

Brian McNicoll
|
Posted: Sep 06, 2011 1:07 PM

This year, Labor Day fell three days before President Obama plans to address the nation on the subject of jobs.

We know what he won’t say because his first instinct – and that of many of his supporters – would be another massive stimulus plan, and that’s a political non-starter.

Liberals argue the first one failed because it was not large enough. No, the first one failed because government spending for the sake of government spending doesn’t effectively create jobs.

But even the modest job-creation potential the package did have – the infrastructure spending the president proposed when he first introduced it – was thrown overboard in favor of the usual giveaways to various “community groups” and other members of the liberal cronyocracy.

Besides, few in Congress want to take the question: Why vote for this now when the first one failed so miserably? According to Friday’s jobs report, America, with its 9.1 percent unemployment rate, created zero new jobs in August. If you spend $800 billion – however you choose to spend it – you have to produce better than zero jobs if you want another chance.

We also can’t expect any measures that might actually work, such as cutting corporate and capital gains taxes. We also hear a lot about how the president pivots to this or that problem. Predictable policies that encourage work, savings and investment fit that description would get that capital back into the game. But after three years of relentless class-warfare rhetoric, that’s probably too much of a pivot for even this most intellectually, spiritually and politically malleable of presidents.

So what can we expect? The early guesses revolve around tax breaks to employers who bring on new workers and other incentives to stand up a new American manufacturing sector.

This has become a recurring theme in the liberal media in recent months. If we can just get back to the 1950s, when huge corporations such as the Big Three automakers paid good wages for hundreds of thousands of workers, all would be well.

But can manufacturing be resurrected by government fiat?

President Reagan’s biggest contribution to American economic policy wasn’t, as many believe, supply-side economics. It wasn’t even his lowering of the top tax bracket from 70 percent to 28 percent. It was his recognition that we weren’t going to live in the 1950s anymore, that the days of depending on manufacturing for millions of well-paying jobs were over.

He began to retool America for a new, global economy, where every man was his own boss. He may or may not have foreseen the coming of the computer age, which served only to accelerate these trends. But he understood global competition was never going to allow us to be what we had been before.

What Americans need to understand is how difficult it would be to stand up a new manufacturing sector. Harold Meyerson, Washington Post columnist and a leading advocate of rebuilding the manufacturing sector, ironically made this case this week in a column about Steve Jobs and Apple.

He said Apple products are manufactured by a Taiwanese contractor that employs nearly a million people – at least 250,000 of whom work solely on Apple products. Until last year, according to Meyerson, those employees worked 60-hour weeks for roughly 50 cents per hour.

How will the United States, where the minimum wage is nearly $8 per hour, compete with these

labor costs?

There has been some modest resurgence in manufacturing in America in recent years. The growth is in low-wage states, such as Mississippi and Texas, where government is careful to stay off the backs of job-creators. The left decries the pay and says these jobs won’t lead to true prosperity.

But the fact is, those who work can save for college. And college is the same passport for prosperity it’s always been. A college education – affordable to all who will put in the time and make the grades – can increase earnings by more than $2 million over the career of average workers.

If the president wants to encourage jobs and growth, he should level with the American people. He should tell them it’s not the 1950s anymore. Capital is fungible and mobile. Corporations, as Mitt Romney says, are people and should not be demonized but encouraged with pro-growth policies. Enact sensible pro-growth policies, encourage education and get out of the way and let the engine of American ingenuity work its magic.

That’s the speech he should give. Sadly, there’s no chance that he will.