The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Right Now

After 960 days in office, President Obama pressed Congress to pass his jobs plan “right now.” The urgency that the President projected seemed rather odd, given that the new jobs plan is almost an exact duplicate of his ill-fated $800 billion stimulus package—a plan that resulted in unemployment hovering above the 9 percent mark for the past 15 months.

To be fair, there are aspects of the President’s new (old?) job plan that make sense. Improving infrastructure is a good idea, but it’s hard to understand how reductions in the payroll tax or extensions to unemployment comp duration will create jobs. These may be reasonable ideas, but they should not be part of a “jobs plan.”

Although the President’s words seem reasonable (if a bit tired) the actions of his administration tell a different story.

A few months ago, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), headed by hand-picked Obama appointees, attempted to block new work at a Boeing factory in South Carolina. Although the NLRB claims their action was procedural, it appears that the fact that Boeing moved some of its work on the new 787 aircraft to a right to work (non-Union) state had a lot more to do with it. If the administration succeeds (the case is in the courts), 1,000 jobs will be lost in South Carolina.

Last month, the Obama Justice Department raided Gibson Guitars and confiscated rosewood from India because it wasn’t finished by Indian workers in Indian. It’s worth noting that over the past year, Gibson has created 500 new jobs in both Memphis and Nashville and that some of those jobs undoubted were connected to the finishing of the rosewood. It’s also worth noting that Gibson’s CEO is a Republican fund-raiser and that Gibson is a non-union shop.

But those are side issues that provide some insight into the administration’s true positions, but don’t solve the problem of establishing an environment in which jobs will be created. The problem can be addressed by reducing onerous regulations, restructuring the tax code to make it more balanced and more inclusive (almost half of our citizens pay no income tax at all and loopholes allow some major corporations to do the same), and reducing the uncertainty associated with an administration that regularly attacks “big corporations” and the “rich.”

For a post-modern President, it’s truly remarkable how 20th century most of Barack Obama’s ideas are. For example, the President plays to his base by demanding that major corporations move manufacturing back to our shores and that the workers who do the manufacturing be union members. Is he honestly unaware that we now live in a global economy where widgets are manufactured where labor costs are lowest? Does he honestly believe that union shops make a manufacturer more competitive?

Bottom line: we cannot compete with China or South Korea or Vietnam in the manufacture of widgets, but we can compete when we derive “manufacturing jobs” in industries that cannot be exported or easily reproduced overseas.

One example of many is energy. How many jobs would be created if we tapped the 2000 acres of land on the north slope of Alaska and unleashed that state’s massive oil reserves? How many jobs would be created if the president declared an energy emergency and reduced the amount of regulation required to build nuclear power plants by 90 percent? How many jobs would be created if we reduced EPA restraints and allowed the production of oil sands and natural gas along with the resulting infrastructure to move those energy sources? And how much better off would our nation be, both domestically and internationally, if we became energy independent as a consequence?

These are not hard things to do, but they are ideologically difficult for Barack Obama. So they remain undone and the employment rate hovers around 9 percent.