Can the Nation Survive Any More Pivoting to Jobs?


Here's what passes for elite opinion about job creation, from the New York Times' Joe Nocera (in a column hi-fived, inevitably, by Jacob Weisberg):

Someone suggested to me recently that the government could create a $50 billion fund for small business, and use it to pay, say, 20 percent of the wages of new hires for two years — first come, first served. Why doesn't Obama suggest something like that?

The only economic advice I could imagine more finger-painty than that would be if, I dunno, a bunch of Van Jones types came up with some new B.S. "Contract For the American Dream" thingie. What's that you say?

On Monday afternoon, MoveOn.org and Rebuild the Dream announced a campaign to build up a popular movement that could match (if not surpass) the debt reduction crowd in both size and energy. And they have borrowed a concept from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) as their organizing principle.

The campaign, led by Van Jones, President of Rebuild the Dream; Justin Ruben, Executive Director of MoveOn.org; and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), among others, is debuting a new Contract for the American Dream. They describe it as "a progressive economic vision crafted by 125,000 Americans…to get the economy back on track." Its debut will involve a nationwide day of action, as well as an ad in The New York Times to run sometime this week, organizers said.

The basic premise of the campaign is that America isn't broke, it's merely imbalanced. In order to stabilize the economy, politicians should make substantial investments in infrastructure, energy, education and the social safety net, tax the rich, end the wars, and create a wider revenue base through job creation.

Whole downloadable pile here.

Katherine Mangu-Ward blogged about the "pivot-to-jobs" nonsense yesterday, though in fairness that subject has been a daily beat since at least the financial crisis of 2008. Why, here's Nick Gillespie in December of that year, reacting to a bunch of phoney-baloney shovel-ready jobs being promised by Our Nation's Mayors, if only there was a stimulus to fund them:

When the history of this awful moment of bailout hysteria is written, there'll be a chapter or 20 on the complete bogosity of what might call "the infrastructure flim-flam"—the idea that government can boostrap the economy out its funk by hiring two guys to dig a hole and a couple more to fill it in.

Remember that $26 billion jobs bill from one year ago? Of course you don't. How about the White House's "Jobs Summit" in December 2009? Ditto. "Recovery Through Retrofit"? No really, that happened. (The slogan, I mean.)

How much has Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) been focusing on jobs? So much that by January 2010 already the then-House Speaker was saying stuff like "The jobs issue has permeated every major initiative that we have." Katherine Mangu-Ward took a survey of Pelosi's relentless job-pivotry in March 2010.

By Pelosi's accounting, the health care bill is jam packed with new jobs. In her standard sales pitch, Pelosi emphasized that the bill was "about jobs. In its life it will create 4 million jobs, 400,000 jobs almost immediately." Apparently those first 400,000 were supposed to spring full-formed from her gavel once the vote tally was complete [….] While those jobs were invisible to the naked eye on CSPAN, they'll be showing up in the March unemployment figures no doubt.

On the floor of the House in June, as the climate change bill was being debated, Pelosi promised that the bill would create "millions of new jobs" and urged her colleagues to vote aye: "And when you do, just remember these four words for what this legislation means: jobs, jobs, jobs, and jobs." She even provided a fancy infographic on her blog, The Gavel. And when it comes to the nation's energy future, those new jobs aren't just any jobs: They're green. While on the campaign trail Obama claimed he could create 5 million "green collar" jobs, a figure he later scaled back to a vague claim of "millions." Pelosi continues to go whole hog, claiming we are on track to create 4 million jobs.

"It's all about the jobs," she declared in December, before a Copenhagen audience that didn't give two hoots about America's unemployment woes. (Pelosi isn't alone in her obsession. Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, a co-sponsor of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, also said "Our bill is essentially a jobs bill.") […]

But wait, there's more! The stimulus bill created 2 million jobs by the accounting of Pelosi's team. Well, make that "created or saved" which is where things start to get slippery. Pelosi's post-passage estimate was closer to 3.5 million, but since much of the stimulus money isn't yet spent, there's time yet to reach that goal.

We are misgoverned and talked down to daily by people who believe–no matter how much wreckage to the contrary washes up at their feet–that "jobs" is a thing that comes as a direct result of the federal government spending more money. Recent history suggests very strongly that whatever legislation or rulemaking comes out of Washington as a result of this lates Jobsapalooza will not improve the nation's lousy job market one bit.