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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My jobs plan

On the eve of the USPS announcing that unless it severely restructures the way it does business, cutting Saturday delivery, closing thousands of small offices and laying off 100,000 or so employees, it is interesting to consider the state of government in that light.

It is interesting to note the all-time low regard in which Americans (speaking very generally here) hold their government, both legislative and executive branches; they expect the government to "fix" the economy and create jobs for them.  Or create the environment in which jobs will grow for them. In the absence of employment, they expect the government will provide them with some form of support in the intervening time period of no employment, thus making up for their lack of income. Oh, and they also expect to get money from the government when they retire from working a regular job. Right now, Congress has a what, 14% approval rating?  Now for fun let's count the number of times Boehner and company refer to their "mandate" to keep up their obstructionism...

So somewhere along the line, unemployed Americans began to expect that their government will provide them with an income.  At the same time, Americans (again, broadly generalizing) seem to feel that they pay enough money to the government in the form of taxes, and are not willing to consider paying more in order to help themselves out during tough economic times such as these.  And, the various organs of government that exist by for and of the people have agreed that, as Mitt Romney put it, "Corporations are people," and so they should not pay more taxes either, since that is seen as counter-productive to them creating the jobs that will obviate the need for the government to pay out more money to support them...

I would offer that, in the case of employment/job generation, the government would be well served to encourage corporations to create more jobs/expand their employment in the United States. Gound breaking, isn't it? The real question is how best to do this.  The standard Republican line appears to be to lighten corporation tax burdens, loosen regulations on their activities, and generally let them do whatever they want to do to the environment.  This will cause them to create good paying jobs for Americans.  As I've said before, I'm happy to link tax burden to employment/jobs created--the more jobs created, the lower the taxes paid. Quid Pro Quo.
      As for regulations, particularly the environmental kind, I'm in disagreement with the Republicans.  It seems to me that if you are requiring corporations to find new ways to clean up emissions, for example, then there is a need for new technologies to be created and implemented.  If that is happening, someone has to invent, design, build, install and monitor these new technologies...which, seems to me, would lead to a lot more jobs.  I do think it should be easier for corporations to build new factories or warehouses or whatever here in the USA. But not at the expense of the environment. I'd say, enhance regulations to require the construction of new green factories (jobs.) Build high tech distribution centers (jobs), build efficient warehouses (jobs) retro-fit existing factories (jobs) Not just construction-based, but then staffing by highly skilled workers... Oh, but the corporations will flee to other countries and build there where there are fewer regulations.  Then those companies that do leave (ahem, Mr. Romney) should be subject to a massive campaign to encourage Americans to buy elsewhere or boycott that product.  And the government should coordinate that.  We still are the largest and wealthiest consumer base on the planet, and companies ignore that at their peril.  The government as coordinator of mass action against a company is a significant incentive for the corporations to remain here. Import tariffs on their goods would also be a strong stick to threaten outsourcing companies with, and the WTO is not impacted by company based tariffs, only country based tariffs...
  Additionally, the Chinese example of creating a "Special Economic Zone" to build capitalism could be instructive here.  The Chinese said "in these areas, the government's rules are relaxed/missing when it comes to the way in which business is conducted." i.e.: socialism was suspended and private companies/individuals could make a profit.  Perhaps this idea could work in the US as well, where the federal government provides infrastructure for the corporations in order to encourage them to locate their new business centers in that place. (say, revitalize the Long Beach Harbor in LA...) If the government provides infrastructure, someone needs to build roads, bridges, train/bus/truck stations, etc.  Which means more jobs.  Then there is a new factory/warehouse/whatever, which means more jobs.
     The caveat there is that the government has to have enough money to pay those workers and to buy those materials (which also generates jobs), which means that tax dollars need to be allocated.  I'm ok with that allocation, even if it means borrowing more, as it seems like it would help in the long run.
    This pre-supposes that the jobs that are needed are jobs of this type, and that Americans will "lower" themselves to work in factories, building roads, bridges, etc...jobs that many Americans I know would turn their noses up at as not appropriate jobs for college graduates, etc.  Which leads to the question of what type of economy do we want: knowledge based, manufacturing based, or a mix of the two...a topic for another time.
    I'm sure Obama is going to plug away at the infrastructure angle of job creation, and work on the idea of re-training those unemployed workers to do better for themselves.  I don't disagree that infrastructure jobs are important (see above) and it will create an interesting dilemma for the Eric Cantor disciples in Congress ("No disaster aid without comparable cuts" my ass.  That man should be taken up to the international space station and encouraged to look at the big picture...from the outside...in his underwear...) as there must be spending to accomplish this goal...but I don't think we can build our way to 9 million new jobs.  And re-training isn't helpful if there aren't jobs to train for...

Ultimately, Americans need to stop looking to the government to create jobs.  Banks need to lend, businesses need to grow, and jobs will follow.  Nothing the goverment does will change those things.  Perhaps people should patronize only the banks that lend and the businesses that are growing, and send a message that way? 

Of course, the irony in the Post Office situation is that the US government has made it possible to do everything on-line now, thus cutting off the USPS from access to revenue...I e-filed my taxes, and collected my refund through electronic transfer.  There's at least $1 postage lost to the USPS...If I couldn't do those things (and no American could), that's around $150 million or so in just IRS generated income alone...So if we sacrifice a bit of convenience for a small bit of change in our pockets we wouldn't be looking at this Postal collapse at all, now would we? Maybe there's a lesson there for all of us...

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