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Political Roundtable Question #7 — Jobs


What are the key policies that should be implemented in order to [create / facilitate the creation of / not impede the creation of] jobs? As always, feel free to compare your ideas to those of the candidates.

My answers are these:

  • Corporations should be limited in size and reach. By breaking up Ma Bell, jobs and new opportunities were created.
  • Curtail money-manipulators… I’m looking at you China.
  • Policies should help to level the playing field without picking winners and losers.
  • End the free trade agreements.
  • Increase infrastructure spending – Now, this is the tricky part. This needs to be done whether everyone is employed or not. We are facing a growing debt in infrastructure maintenance. This, contrary to my libertarian friends, is a government responsibility. We have to have a solid interstate system, ports, bridges, electrical grids. As a matter of fact, we need to reduce our dependency upon the grid system for electricity. Create a new public works program that will insure a high-speed rail connecting America’s largest cities. Get rid of aging grids. Clean up dirty ports.
  • Increase the tax rate on the top bracket, but give incentives for American jobs.
  • Bring home the troops and station them in the United States. Stop supporting other economies.

Joel’s reply seems the most sensible, compared to these others, either ignorant to the nation’s economic empirical history or laden with delusional libertarian shibboleths, completely broken off from reality. This one, in particular, reeks of hubris completely at odds with how the US became an economic powerhouse with a flowering, unprecedented ubiquitous middle class. This notion of a well oiled virtuous private sector and a villainous public sector mucking up affairs is a make believe libertarian dreamscape utopia. Without a healthy, vibrant public sector, the private sector cannot thrive, other than “rule of the jungle” antics seeping with corruption and injustice.

However, the appeal of these highlighted liberal solutions to the “jobs problem” misses the mark, and it is shortsighted, though certainly, in the short run, the infusion would offer a hearty boost. Simply put, it requires a paradigm shift, as there is a larger structural transformation in process. Robots, advancing technology, increasing software power, etc.… enable more work to be done with less people. Go peruse the federal labor jobs reports and verify that most new jobs are mostly those that are ripe candidates for supplanting by automation. Or via the power of software, able to be managed by a fraction of humans.

This does not have to be a societal disruptive force — in fact, it should be the harbinger of an amazing epoch. Ascending productivity can free us for an era of incredible human freedom and creativity, while we harvest the fruitful output of code and machines. So, in essence, the problem is inequality.

So, I am totally on board with a yearly “poverty line” disbursement. Yes, I already hear the howling and outrage, but such a Keynesian blast would fuel a second American economic golden age, And there are plenty of ways to pay for it, as Marshall Brain details here — some ideas include: fines, public advertising, natural resource payments, spectrum auctions, a national lottery, copyright license fees, “extreme” income taxes, a national mutual fund, additional taxes (sin, luxury, “extreme” profit), punitive damages, naming rights, Lexus lanes, email postage. One I did not see listed there was a small financial transaction tax (i.e., 0.1%) that over billions of trades offers a significant windfall and also serves as a throttle on speculative trading.

In lieu of that, here are ideas I am in favor of:

  • upping the minimum wage, or better yet, implementing a living wage, with increases indexed to a subsistence level benchmark
  • infrastructure spending
  • "Manhattan Project" undertakings for curing cancer, alternative energy sources, space exploration
  • disincentives for firms moving money and jobs offshore
  • free college, or if that too unpalatable for those alarmed at such fiscal imprudence, percentage caps on maximum amount of student loan repayment and end to draconian student debtor law

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