Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jobs Stimulus? Hello? McFly?

Kevin O'Leary suggests, in TIME, that America should "resurrect something like the Works Progress Administration" — the Depression–era program that "put millions of unemployed Americans to work building schools, roads, parks, libraries and other needed infrastructure projects."

That's a good idea. Why didn't I think of that?

Wait a minute. I did suggest that. Well, perhaps not in those words. But I've been saying that job creation needed to be a priority since before George W. Bush started packing up to move back to Texas.

When the Democrats pushed through their pork–laden economic stimulus package, I was saying that we needed to focus on job creation. Well, job creation got a lot of lip service but not much else.

And now, all of a sudden, O'Leary reports that "the current situation is stark." Gee. Ya think?
"When people say there are no jobs out there, it's true. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the start of the recession in December 2007, the ratio of job seekers to job openings was 1.5 to 1. Now six unemployed workers chase every available job. It's a brutal game of musical chairs in which a great many people lose and spiral downward economically with disastrous consequences, not only for themselves and their families, but also for communities that were once productive and prosperous."

Actually, I am glad to see someone treating this as the dire situation it is.

That's why I'm somewhat baffled by the emphasis on health care reform. I know it is important. I really do. But I've seen reports of people killing themselves and their families because they don't have jobs. I haven't seen any reports like that connected with health care.

Doesn't that suggest that job creation is more pressing right now?

Economists now are saying that employment won't even start to get better until well into next year. Unless the affected families have a medical crisis to deal with, health care occupies a rather low spot on the totem pole. Food, clothing and shelter are more immediate concerns.

I heard a lot of encouraging talk about job creation during last fall's campaign. Notably, Barack Obama pledged a tax credit for businesses for each American they hired in 2009 or 2010, but no such tax credit was included in the stimulus package.

Here's a thought for all those politicians who have fretted about how we're going to pay for that $1 trillion stimulus package — put Americans back to work and start collecting taxes from them again.

Here's another revenue idea that seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Legalize and regulate the sales of marijuana. State and federal governments could collect taxes on the sales, virtually eliminating the black market (and the violent crime that goes along with it) and freeing law enforcement to devote its time and resources to violent criminals. It has been estimated that marijuana sales could generate $1 billion annually in tax revenue in California alone.

Could your state use $1 billion a year? Well, revenue would be somewhat lower in the other states because California's population is, far and away, greater than any of the others. But we're still talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in most states.

It could also create jobs, just as the end of Prohibition created jobs. But Obama refuses to discuss it.

I hate to sound like a broken record (which I'm sure is an alien concept to many young people today), but job creation is the key. Put people back to work and you'll have a more receptive audience for talk of health care reform. Even make–work that only lasts a little while will help.

But whatever you're going to do, you're going to have to do it quickly. Time is running out for millions of Americans. Obama has been president for seven months, and job losses have been in six figures in each of those months.

Blame it on Bush if you want. But he isn't sitting in the Oval Office anymore.

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