Identifying the job killers [The conversation]
It's hard to avoid the sense of defeat when there are four people for every job opening, a "green" jobs plan that's disappointed so far and the threat of a double-dip recession on the horizon. Even the fall TV lineup, which seems intent on featuring the "mancession," won’t give us a breather. Opinionators haven't lightened the mood either. Instead they've sounded alarms about President Obama's job-creation bill before Congress on Monday, saying it's "dead on arrival," " 'POOP' " "long on promises, weak on substance" and "unlikely to make any progress toward boosting employment in the U.S. " In our editorial pages, the board wrote:
The president is right to call for his plan to be paid for, and right to suggest that it be done over time. But his speech offered no new thoughts on how to do so; instead, Obama simply repeated his call for modest reforms in entitlements and more taxes on the wealthy.
Ideas differ on how best to boost employment. But most opinions start by identifying the obstacles -- or the job killers, as they really see them.
Obama's timing and political environment couldn't be worse. Republicans were attacking his plan before he even outlined it. His efforts to get conservatives on board seem to be a non-starter. Despite his efforts to reach out across the aisle, most of his adversaries began denouncing it on cue as a rehash even if he incorporated some of their ideas into it. […]
So, yes, while it may be wrong to blame Obama for forces beyond his control -- beyond any president's control -- it isn't wrong to ask what has taken him so long to make jobs a priority.
Just as justice delayed is justice denied, waiting too long to do what has to be done ensures that we may be beyond the tipping point, too late to get much accomplished, given the political realities and uncertainties in this government-killing environment.
Liberals aren't the only Americans making approving noises about the American Jobs Act rolled out by President Obama Thursday night. Private economic forecasters are also giving it a thumbs up:Moody Analytics' Mark Zandi went so far as to predict the plan would add two million jobs.
But you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks Congress will pass the president's plan in anything close to the shape he outlined. Which leaves us with a familiar question: What can President Obama do to boost jobs without Congress?
A failure to prioritize the private sector
Recall that the private sector is the main employment engine. Businesses create jobs when two conditions are met. First, extra demand for their products justifies more workers. Second, the extra demand can be satisfied profitably. There are qualifications to these generalizations (start-ups, for instance), but these are the basics. […]It ought to be about building confidence, not scoring political points. This is a tall order. As the 2012 election approaches, it may be too tall.
The president was explicit on this point. He would not abandon regulations in favor of achieving growth. If you're a regulations person, the speech was probably a huge disappointment. It's not just conservatives in this camp. There is a progressive argument for countercyclical regulation policy that says we reduce regulations when growth is poor and layer them on when growth is stronger. The president didn't buy into that in his speech.
With job creation taking center stage in American politics, the oil industry Wednesday made a pitch for drilling more widely. With looser restrictions, the industry says it could deliver 1.4 million new jobs, boost tax rolls by $800 billion, and increase domestic energy production almost 50%.
To hit those numbers, the industry would need to drill off the East and West Coasts, in waters off Florida's Gulf Coast, in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and on most federal public land that's not a national park. These areas are currently off limits to drilling, except for some public land in these regions. […]
"Poll after poll shows that job creation is the top concern of most Americans," American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard said in a letter to President Obama. "We provide more than energy; we offer real-world solutions that will create jobs, strengthen our energy security and generate significant government revenue without raising taxes."
We can create literally hundreds of thousands of new jobs by responsibly developing the nation’s abundant energy resources on our lands and off our coasts. We can also create jobs by building more energy infrastructure, such as the Keystone XL pipeline connecting oil in Alberta, Canada, to U.S. refineries in Texas. This project alone would support 250,000 jobs.
New technologies are wreaking havoc on employment figures -- from EZpasses ousting toll collectors to Google-controlled self-driving automobiles rendering taxicab drivers obsolete. Every new computer program is basically doing some task that a person used to do. But the computer usually does it faster, more accurately, for less money, and without any health insurance costs.
The good news: Thursday's jobs speech contained the beginnings of a powerful story about the need to restore U.S. competitiveness. As Obama said:
"We now live in a world where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere. If we want them to start here and stay here and hire here, we have to be able to out-build, and out-educate, and out-innovate every other country on Earth."
Obama made a very good speech Thursday night. Many of his proposals were strong, especially his focus on upgrading U.S. infrastructure. But overall, the President’s proposals are temporary and short-term. What we really need is to start transitioning to a longer-range plan of investments for the next generation of growth in America. Let’s face it, the last generation of growth in America was caused by an expansion of consumption fueled by easy credit. This will not work going forward.
Photo: President Obama speaks on the American Jobs Act as Vice President Joe Biden, left, looks on Monday in the Rose Garden of the White House. Credit: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images