A new research study complains that journalists have not been verifying claims that certain government policies “kill jobs.” The study was completed by a professor of communications and a professor of urban & environmental policy. I guess they could not find an economist to help? Here’s the laundry list of complaints, from the study, with helpful links added to largely Reason articles explaining how these policies hurt or otherwise distort the economy:
In the last few years– especially since 2009–charge of “job-killer” have been used against an ever-increasing list of federal policies and policy proposals including:
• environmental clean air regulations
• financial reform
• National Labor Relations Board rules
• public health and safety regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency, the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Consumer Product Safety
• voluntary healthy food marketing guidelines proposed by the Federal Trade
• tax code changes
• health care reform
• minimum wage increases
• student loan reforms
Which isn’t to say stupid politicians will make stupid job-killing claims, but the effect government has on destroying economic productivity is not a “meme,” as the researchers were quick to repeat. One example cited by the paper was this reference to the 2010 cap-and-trade effort as a job killer in an Associated Press story:
Republicans slammed the bill as a "national energy tax" and jobs killer, arguing that the costs would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher electricity bills and fuel costs that would lead manufacturers to take their factories overseas.
The study complained that the story “provided no evidence to support the conjecture that the energy plan would kill jobs,” even though the argument is spelled out in the very portion of the article the study pulls out.
There’s no mention, either, of the contemporary pervasiveness of the “technology is a job-killer” misconception, though some early manifestations of it are relayed. For example, Henry Wallace, FDR’s secretary of agriculture, blamed unemployment on automated farming equipment and the Democrats of the era picked up on the theme. From the study:
Syndicated columnist Mark Sullivan pilloried Wallace for blaming unemployment in part on the development of automated farm machinery for example, Wallace estimated that 15,000-20,000 farm laborers were thrown out of work in Iowa due to the mechanical corn-picker . Sullivan instead accused Wallace of putting people out of work by limiting farm production:Are you trying to make people believe that invention destroys jobs? ...You, Mr. Wallace, are the real job-killer in the United States. When you limit the quantity of cotton raised, you by that act limit the number of jobs ginning cotton, spinning it, weaving it, carrying cotton and cotton goods on freight trains. You are not only the Herod of the little pigs, you are the Attila of industry, the scourge of trade.On the other side of this issue, Congressman Edward Crump, a Tennessee Democrat, worried that “negroes will have nothing to do and millions of them will be idle,” called for the ban on the mechanical cotton-picking machine, which he described as a “job-killing monster.”
The paper traces the origins of the “job killer” phrase to… the FDR administration:
Seven years later, in 1938, Raymond Moley, a close advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, used the term. In a speech laying out his plan for recovery, Moley mentioned repealing “two particularly oppressive, job-killing taxes.” Several newspapers in the following months picked Moley s phrase up and attributed it to him. This seems to be the first use of the term in the modern context. So, ironically, Moley, one of FDR s so-called “brain trusters” who invented the term “New Deal,” is also in a certain sense the inventor of the “job killing” meme. In a similar context, a Los Angeles Times editorial in 1938 castigated FDR for vetoing “an act designed to alleviate punitive, job-killing, misery-creating forms of taxation.
The pearl-clutching over “uncited” job-killer claims is almost reminiscent of intelligent designers.
John Stossel on who’s really confused in the job-killer debate
(Via the White House Office of Management and Budget’s twitter feed )