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Nice Talk. When's the Jobs Speech?
Nice Talk. When's the Jobs Speech?
September 09, 2011
Originally published in Forbes
Hauling the United States Senate and a reluctant House together to listen to you on NFL kickoff night–when it’s not even State of the Union season besides–represents a magnificent triumph of community organizing. I listened in, but missed that bit about how jobs will actually be created, which had been the teaser.
There’s a famous observation that poverty doesn’t have causes; instead, poverty is the default state of mankind, while only wealth has causes.
My lesser noggin contends that the same can be said of joblessness and employment, respectively.
Hyper-creation of jobs is possible in the U.S., it’s there for the taking, as Alec Baldwin brilliantly put it in Glengarry Glen Ross in another somewhat twisted context. But it takes a leader willing to uproot the entrenched government that, by late 2011 A.D., has spent decades outlawing the “causes of employment” by means of a gargantuan Regulatory State that Obama barely acknowledged.
Obama’s “jobs” talk grudgingly nodded at some payroll tax relief (gee, thanks, after three years) and enthused about trade liberalization (great). But true colors burst forth in threats to require payment of ”fair share” aimed at the very producers presumably expected to create jobs in the first place.
The rest of the speech clung to otherwise discredited infrastructure bridge-and-school-building stimulus ideas (why don’t the involved states build it themselves, one might wonder) and admonitions to just shut up and spend and lend. He even mentioned spending on roofs. And invoked paying teachers as a federal matter.
Herein is our crisis. The very idea of of a presidential speech treating jobs as a public works phenomenon in any respect properly subject to federal delineation is something of an abomination in a free society. About the best to be said about the “American Jobs Act” grandiosely unveiled on September 8 is that, yes, there’ll always be an America, it’s just not going to be here, under these philosophies.
In this age of trillions, taxes and spending get all the press. That’s warranted, when government budgets double in the way that our GDP used to when job creation was legal.
But even today’s $3.5 trillion federal budget and $1.5 trillion deficit don’t capture government’s true size and scope anymore. A jobs agenda in 2011 would entail cutting taxes to Herman Cain’s “less than God needs” levels, but, even more urgently, an all out war on red tape that’s not even on Obama’s radar.
Obama is a brilliant man, in the know-it-all, Mensa-guy-working-at-Tower-Records sense that puzzled me as a kid looking at grownups who thought only within their own square. Often Republicans exemplify this classic human reality that intelligence comes in different varieties, somehow always wrapped in blinders, given Mitt and Rick’s GOP debate jibing over who had “created jobs” in their respective states. Note to the GOP: Governors don’t create jobs either; unshackled constituents do. In fact anyone who holds a job due of the outcome of an election should rewrite the song of politicians as job creators.
Anyway, today, the Code of Federal Regulations exceeds 157,000 pages. The number of rules in the pipeline in the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations has surged since Obama stepped in, from 3,983 in mid-2009 to 4,257 in the mid-2011 .
Of those in play this year, 219 rules are deemed “economically significant,” which means they cost $100 million or more.
Rich countries can tolerate a ravenous, parasitic government class for a long, long time, in the same respect that a bigger dog can have more ticks. Unfortunately, with respect to today’s most energetic wealth- and job-creating sectors–energy, finance, health care, telecommunications, frontier technology–government regulation occupies the power-drunk, brake-happy driver’s ed instructor’s seat like never before.
The need to confront the crippling extent of regulation remains unappreciated by both parties. It requires, not a jobs plan, but liberalization so that all of us who are not politicians can create our own jobs plans.
Not that Obama could ever do it with regard to the signature health care and financial regulations on which he’s staked his legacy, Obama missed the chance to actually present a jobs agenda by:
- Aggressively opening up America to safe but aggressive natural resource access for “unprecedented” (his favorite word) drilling and mining.
- Stopping antitrust adventurism against America’s technology titans like Google and the intended AT&T and T-Mobile merger.
- Repudiatng “net neutrality” mandates as the anti-competitive, anti-infrastructure policy that they are.
- Inventorying all the legislation and regulations that impact a small business as it grows, and systematically rolling them back.
A jobs agenda further requires ensuring that future barriers to growth are removed. The president called for a “commonsense test” of no more regulation than health and safety legitimately require. OK then; so to do that, he could urge:
- A bi-partisan “regulatory reduction commission” to vote up or down immediately on a package of rules to eliminate.
- Congressional fast-track approval before major ($100 million-plus) regulations take effect. The REINS Act, or Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny Act, awaits the presidential nod.
- A freeze on new regulatory rulemaking.
- Adoption of proposals like Sen. Mark Warner’s (D-Va) “one-in, one-out” requirementl for any new regulation.
- Re-discovery of federalism by backing out of health and safety regulatory matters best left to states.
- Requiring the Office of Management and Budget to publish the numbers of major and minor rules produced by each agency, indicate where cost-benefit analysis was and was not done, and strengthen oversight.
- Regulatory flexibility and exemptions for small business.
- Declaring mere Federal Register publication of yet new mandates as insufficient notice to overburdened small business. Few have teams of lawyers and lobbyists in Washington capable of tracking it all.
- Boosting the scope of experimental programs like the Small Business Administration’s Regulatory Review and Reform program to allow affected businesspeople to systematically challenge burdensome rules.
- Lowering the threshold at which a point-of-order (a prodecural “hey wait a minute” in Congress) applies against new unfunded mandates
- Experimenting with a limited regulatory budgets.
- Establishing an annual presidential address on the state of over-regulation and its impact on productivity and GDP, and launching a congressional office of regulatory analysis (a “CBO” for regulations).
- Sunsetting regulations unless explicit reauthorization is made after five years.
- Implementing a congressional supermajority requirement for extraordinarily costly mandates
- Creation of a basic Regulatory Report Card to accompany the federal budget
If he actually wanted to, the President could comprehensively and systematically wall off further government interference with business job creation and the nascent enterprises that are America’s engines of job and wealth creation. The new “jobs” proposal instead presented a vision of spending, of greater compulsory government involvement in civil society and enterprise.
Government isn’t supposed to be making “jobs plans” (Obama’s phase) for us. Until it stops, the real speech about jobs creation remains to be delivered.