Faced with a 9.1 percent unemployment rate, a deeply disgruntled public and a creeping election season, President Barack Obama is hastily "pivoting" away from the debt ceiling debate toward jobs. In Michigan, where the unemployment rate is 10.5 percent, the president recently proclaimed "We know that there are things that we can do right now that will support job growth." Things like building roads, extending unemployment benefits, cutting payroll taxes, and that old standby, clean energy.
Like Obama, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blames partisan bickering in Washington for the nation's economic woes and recently accused Republicans of having "passed bills that would destroy up to 2 million jobs—nearly 10,000 jobs per day" in the 200 days since she was booted from her role as House speaker. Pelosi, of course, is an old hand at job pivotry. She prefers her jobs bought and paid for by federal money, and in a pleasing shade of green.
Republicans have their own jobs agenda, but mostly prefer to talk trash about the Democrats. "Spurring jobs and the economy is always next on the Obama Administration’s to-do list," sniped Current House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in an August 3 blog post, "right after more spending, more taxing, and more regulating."
Meanwhile, the American people are raising a collective skeptical eyebrow at both parties on the employment front. A July Pew Research poll showed an even 39-39 split on which party Americans trust more on jobs. But a CNN/ORC poll released Friday finds that only 29 percent of respondents think there will be more jobs in their communities a year from now—and 26 percent think there will be fewer jobs.
In an effort to produce real free-market ideas for boosting employment, Reason asked some of our favorite economists, writers, professors, and entrepreneurs for one concrete policy change they would recommend that would increase job growth. —Lucy Steigerwald
Repeal of ObamaCare would probably do wonders to spur hiring, especially for permanent positions. Compensation for such jobs usually includes a benefits package with health care insurance, as well as a money wage or salary. Health care insurance often constitutes a major part of the employer’s cost of keeping a permanent worker on the payroll, and anything that makes this cost difficult to forecast makes employers leery to take on new workers.
ObamaCare—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—is a gigantic statute, and it would be a big bite for employers to digest in any event. But as it stands, it serves mainly as an announcement that a large number of legal black boxes must be filled with new regulations that various administrative agencies will eventually promulgate. As Gary Lawson has written recently, “Implementation of the Act will require many years and literally thousands of administrative regulations that will determine its substantive content and coverage.”
This situation creates tremendous uncertainty that affects virtually all firms. After all, no matter how firms may differ in other regards, they all hire employees, and in most cases employee compensation amounts to a major part of their total cost of operation. Repeal of ObamaCare would have many benefits, but surely a great benefit would be the removal of an ominous cloud of uncertainty about a critical matter that now hangs over the entire labor market. In the face of this uncertainty, few firms have been, or will be, willing to assume the risk associated with increasing their permanent, full-time workforce.
Robert Higgs is a senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute. He is the author of Crisis and Leviathan: Criticial Episodes in the Growth of American Government, and several other books.
"Jobs" are deals between workers and employers, and so "creating" them out of unwilling parties is impossible. The state, though, can outlaw deals, and has. So: eliminate the minimum wage for people younger than 25. The resulting boom in jobs for young people will amaze. Maybe it will inspire voters to get the state out of the job-outlawing business. Probably not, so sure are we that the state "protects" by stopping deals between willing parties.
Deirdre McCloskey is a professor of economics, history,
English, and communication at the University of Illinois at
Chicago, and author of
The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of
The single thing the U.S. could do to ensure long-term growth, including that of jobs, is to reform our Federal Reserve so that monetary policy is rules-based, not personality-based. Even a return to the gold standard would do, though it is also possible to fashion a monetary regime under which the currency is pegged to a basket of commodities.
Amity Shlaes is a senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is the author of The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. Her biography of Calvin Coolidge will be released next spring.
Close the Departments of Labor, Commerce, Agriculture, Energy, and HUD, then eliminate three fourths of all regulations.