What does it mean to focus on jobs?: The conventional Beltway logic is that the President used his State of the Union Address to "pivot to focus on job creation." We have been told for a week or two that job creation is policy priority #1.... Wednesday night the President "pivoted to focus on jobs."
That is why jobs must be our number one focus in 2010, and that is why I am calling for a new jobs bill tonight.I have a simple question: What does it mean to focus on jobs?
I would presume that it means the President would propose new policy changes that are designed to significantly increase employment, and fairly quickly....
My back-of-the-envelope calculation... suggests that the President's new Small Business Jobs and Wages credit will increase full-time employment in 2010 by 165,000 - 297,000 years. By 2011, it will increase full-time employment by 264,000 - 594,000 years.... For comparison, remember that the U.S. economy has lost 2.7 million jobs since a year ago, and 7.2 million jobs since the beginning of the recession in December 2007. 297,000 is 4.1% of 7.2 million, so you're talking about a policy change that at best would restore fewer than 1 out of 25 jobs lost since the recession began.
Since no one in the Obama Administration is likely to answer Hennessey, I will: What it means to "focus on jobs" is to focus on talking about jobs... for a few minutes before turning to talk about something else.
THEY JUST DON'T GET IT! Talking about jobs does not create jobs. And just about everyone outside of Versailles knows this.
If they somehow think they are "dealing with" the repercussions of the MA Senate race, they are deluding themselves. The problem is, quite simply that Keynesian economics works. It's not a matter of ideology, it's a matter of fact. And Richard Trumka made this point very directly on Bill Moyers Journal Friday night. He seems to believe that Obama really gets it--and I think he's 100% wrong about that. But he himself understands what needs to be done:
RICHARD TRUMKA: .... So, I think he's starting to understand and feel the anger. And I think he's willing to work his way through. Now, the question becomes, will he do it on a scale that's necessary or essential to solve the problem.
BILL MOYERS: What kind of scale?
RICHARD TRUMKA: That's the issue. It has to be a large scale. We lost eight million jobs, plus we have two million that we needed for growth. So, we're 10 million jobs in the hole. In order to do that, it's going to take more than a little stimulus package or a little job bill. Because if all we do is the same thing that Japan did in the early '90s. They would spend a little, look like they're coming out of recession. And then stop and it would drop back down.
They did that for a whole decade. They lost a decade. And our country just can't stand that. So, our job is to make sure that his understanding of the anger, translates out into a jobs program of sufficient size to solve the problem.
Boy howdy! Even more than the FDR trying to balance the budget in 1937, the example of Japan in the 1990s is a major object lesson in what not to do. One that virtually all of Versailles--including the Obama Administration--seems utterly oblivious to.
I'm really glad that Trumka nailed this--and I'm pleased with other things he went on to say:
BILL MOYERS: So, what are your economists, your experts, your scholars, your academicians telling you we should be spending for the jobs program that you'd like to see, that you think will really make a big contribution to closing the gap.
RICHARD TRUMKA: First of all, we have to extend unemployment benefits. You got almost six million people who have been unemployed for longer than six months. If they lose those benefits, they stop consuming. If they stop consuming, the economy contracts pretty significantly.
So, we have to extend benefits. And we suggested a year's extension, so that everybody knows where they're going to be. Second of all, we needed money for the state and local governments. They are going to have about $178 billion deficit. And if they stop spending, anything we spend on the federal side just negates one another. So, we have to make sure that we don't lose education, like teachers, firemen, police officers, and all those jobs that are necessary. So, we think there should be aid to state and local governments.
We think there ought to be a major investment in infrastructure. We have a $2.2 trillion deficit in this country when it comes to our infrastructure. Bridges are crumbling. Schools are crumbling. Other places, roads are done. So, we need to make a major investment in that. And quite frankly, we think that the government ought to signal or say that they're going to do that over a number of years.
Because if they do that, and say, "We're going to make a ten-year commitment to rebuilding our infrastructure," then they can bring in private funds. We can leverage that money and private funds will come in as well. The fourth thing we think we need in the short term is direct funding of jobs. I'll give you a couple of examples. You go into an area where schools are, where the students are hurting, because of a low tax base. And you say, "I'm going to provide tutors." Now, that creates a job and it helps a student with better schooling, better education, and being able to do better. And then the last thing the President announced he was going to do was that we think that we ought to use the TARP money to give to regional and community banks so that they can lend to small and mid-sized businesses that create that. And we think this year, we need to be on the range of at least $400 billion. That will get us about 4 million jobs back.
This should not be surprising. Labor has routinely had a much better sense of what's needed economically than anyone else--and for good reason: They represent the vast majority of people who can't make out like bandits regardless of what happens to everyone else. This forces a high degree of realism--something that virtually everyone else in Versailles is utterly immune to.
Now, I do have one problem with Trumka, and that's that he seems to believe that Obama has gotten the message, and understands what needs to be done. But nothing in his performance with the GOP House Caucus gives any inkling of that. His basic line could be rendered as: "Hey, I'm to the right of Dwight Eisenhower. What more do you want?" And the GOP House Caucus shot back: "Eisenhower was a Commie dupe!"
They want to the right of Attila the Hun.
One thing, though, should be coming increasingly clear: More and more, progressives generally, and netroots activists in particular, are going to have gain a new appreciation for the basic soundness, soberness and importance of labor thinking on economics and labor's importance as a major force in setting this country back on the right track. Too many younger activists, especially those with an online focus, have little understanding of labor that's not badly distorted by the same delusional Versailles CW that they readily see through in almost every other area. Labor is far from perfect, of course. And it's had its own problems from being too influenced by the thinking of Versailles. But it has enormous under-recognized strengths as well, and if we're going to weather the difficult struggles ahead, then forging strong bonds between the netroots and labor is going to be an absolute necessity. There's just no one else who's got any sort of power who's remotely close to having a clue what's going on and what is needed for America, as opposed to Wall Street and Versailles.
On a related matter, Digby warns that progressives are fooling themselves to think that Obama did a good job in talking to the GOP reps:
It would appear people are extremely happy that Obama hit it out of the park yesterday in his appearance at the Republican retreat yesterday, so I'm in a minority of those who think it wasn't all that. It's not that I don't think he performed well. He always performs well. And he's smart as can be, so I expect him to be able to parry lugubrious misrepresentations from idiots without any trouble at all. We liberals love that stuff.
Certainly, it is a welcome thing if he was able to please his supporters because they have been sorely disappointed lately and they deserved something to cheer about so I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade. Morale is important and if he made people feel charged up that's all to the good.
However, I remain concerned that the message is not as clear to the rest of the country as his supporters think it was. ("Don't mess with Obama.") I watched Clinton do this type of thing over and over again and it didn't change the dynamic at all. He was personally successful, but liberal ideology was degraded every time he conceded something like "I think we raised taxes too much" or "the era of big government is over." People loved his ability to out talk his accusers (in his case it was a real high wire act) but the agenda suffered greatly from his ceaseless efforts to cajole a psychotically hostile opposition into working with him. It resulted in passage of center right policies and his own impeachment. But then he didn't have a huge majority in congress either.
I suspect that average voters don't see Obama being persecuted as Clinton was, or subject to non-stop calumny by a rabid Republican majority. The Republicans aren't doing anything (and that's the problem.) I think people see Obama conceding that he hasn't been bipartisan enough and that he intends to keep trying. And that will never be a winner for our side because all the Republicans have to do is continue to obstruct to prove him a failure.
That's it precisely. Instead of addressing the real problems that Krugman, Trumka, and even Bush's economist point out, Obama gives us a Clinton rerun that needlessly compounds the folly of Clinton's failed approach, and virtually assures its own failure. And this is supposed to be smart?
Call it "outsmarting yourself", call it "too clever by half," call it whatever, but in the end, the smart thing to do is never to be smart, anyways.
The smart thing to do is to be wise.