Creating Jobs is the Real Challenge

We are mired in a slow growth economy and hobbled by political inflexibility while 22 million American consumers look for a job.  Demand is slack and the Administration sprinkles regulatory “agent-orange” across markets where the private sector would normally invest in equipment and jobs.  Large and small firms are considering suitable projects and they have money to invest.  Government has limitless ideas for spending, but a dire shortage of funds.  We can handle the jobs challenge, but it’ll take government and private sector cooperation.


Complimentary Abilities Makes it Possible.  In 2009, cash was bulldozed out of the Treasury toward state governments and politically-favored jobs, some costing $1.4M each.  But today’s vault is bare, so government cannot toss money at the problem – other powers are the basis for its cooperation.  Government and private sector goals are not identical but with cooperation they could launch jobs, investments and economic growth for the US.   Private sector projects launch only if they make financial sense, i.e. increase shareowner value.  The following principles can shape cooperation to produce jobs.  Those who use “millionaires and billionaires” and “corporate jets” as punctuation points aren’t ready to cooperate – and should read no further.


Not all jobs are created equal.  Creating a new job is a success – replacing an old job with a new one, less so.  A private sector job generates payroll and income taxes – a government job might be constructive, but it consumes a lot more tax revenue than it generates.  Small businesses are more likely to be the best job creators in the near term.  They can see niche opportunities and react most nimbly.  Major infrastructure projects can absorb millions of workers, but unless approached as a private finance initiative, they require more money than government has.  


The government’s role must be focused on cost reduction.  In private sector analyses, economic uncertainty and regulation are costs that deplete margins.  High costs kill projects or force scaling back projects.   In its new role of cost reducer, government needs to balance enabling commercial projects and protecting the public’s interest by using only cost benefit-tested regulations.  In the past, Government gave lip-service to “cost benefit analysis” but rarely conducted it without political thumbs on the scale.  Don’t look to CFTC, EPA, NLRB or NRC for models of honest cost-benefit analysis, you’d waste your time. 


Stop digging the hole.  As an immigrant, I like immigrants.  But while we’re in this economic pit we should grant immigration only to those with a job that will fully carry their own (and accompanying family’s) weight.  Also welcome those who’ve just completed advanced technical degrees at US universities – at least long enough to get a job.  And enforce the laws already on the books!  We can resume humanitarian admissions when our economy is less depressed and more Americans are employed.

Stop digging the hole twice as fast.  US exports create paychecks here in America.  Imports send a lot of paychecks outside the US, $2.5 Trillion worth.  When there’s a choice between imports and domestic production, favor domestic production.  In this regard, the nation’s lack of sane energy policy is a celebrated job killer.   When a stylish energy source can’t survive without government subsidy, which means American consumers don’t want to pay for its costs.  

Don’t Confuse Dawdling with Due Process.   When allowed, regulators keep themselves and big ticket attorneys in comfy employment for years without reaching a conclusion.  Their political winds-driven vacillation hikes private sector costs and even deters commercial projects from being proposed.  Check out three decades of dithering over Yucca Mountain spent fuel storage, or the multi-year licensing fiasco at the Levy County FL reactor.  Elected officials should pace the regulatory clock to favor meaningful jobs today, not slow-motion peacock shows.

Consumers are rightly worked up about Americans’ hunt for jobs that are unavailable.  Creating job opportunities should be a top priority for government – right after law and order and defense.  But it requires leadership to ditch attack-style talking points and it takes courage to be known as a cost cutter, not as a big spender.  Are there any courageous leaders?

Alan Daley is a retired businessman living in Florida.  He follows public policy issues from the consumer’s perspective