There are two job crises in America. The first is real, caused by the recession, and by the economy’s response to a president who took the “free” out of free market by indulging his own unique ideas on a planned economy. The second crisis is a White House invention, a partisan fabrication designed to placate the president’s supporters. This is the crisis President Obama is determined to fix.
Barack Obama has been talking about job creation since January 2009. The Recovery Act added $825 billion to our deficit.1 For the hundreds of billions we spent, the Congressional Budget Office tells us that any benefits have already started to die away:
The effects of ARRA on output peaked in the first half of 2010 and have since diminished, CBO estimates. The effects of ARRA on employment and unemployment are estimated to lag slightly behind the effects on output; CBO estimates that the employment effects began to wane at the end of 2010 and continued to do so in the second quarter of 2011.2
Rather than admitting outright failure, the White House is determined to put a positive spin on high unemployment. The Council of Economic Advisors’ Katherine Abraham tried to explain how the August jobs report was anything but catastrophic:
Despite a slowdown in economic growth from substantial headwinds experienced throughout the year, the economy has added private sector jobs for 18 straight months, for a total of 2.4 million jobs over that period.3
Whatever “substantial headwinds” means, unemployment is higher now than at the start of the year. Jobless Americans are suffering from a very real employment crisis with no end in sight. The Obama Jobs Crisis is altogether different. The solution to this crisis is to put union workers back on the job, and to sell this policy to taxpayers as something other than using public money to purchase employment. Stumping in Illinois, the president told us:
Over the last 17 months we’ve created over 2 million jobs in the private sector. We saved an auto industry that was on the brink. (Applause.) We have — we’ve made investments in clean energy, in rebuilding our roads and our bridges.
And thanks to the great work of Secretary LaHood, we’ve been getting started on the process of making sure we’ve got the best infrastructure around.4
Purchasing infrastructure jobs is not going to fix high unemployment any more than buying time for General Motors saved the auto industry. The president’s pandering to unions brings back memories of the White House meeting with organized labor to stay the health care bill’s Cadillac Tax, which was finally delayed until 2018. Now, in the midst of a jobs crisis the president has contrived, the AFL-CIO has been brought back to the planning table to help decide how to spend more of our money. This time the focus is the pending transportation bill:
This isn’t a Democratic or a Republican issue – it’s an American issue. That’s why, last week, I was joined at the White House by representatives from the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce – two groups who don’t always see eye-to-eye, but who agree that it’s critically important for our economy that Congress act now.5
In his weekly address, a frustrated Barack Obama talked about political games stalling the transportation bill’s approval:
There’s a lot of talk in Washington these days about creating jobs. But it doesn’t help when those same folks turn around and risk losing hundreds of thousands of jobs just because of political gamesmanship.6
The president construes any Republican objection to his demands as partisan stalling. To tax paying Americans, political gamesmanship is using tax dollars to pay the salaries of union workers under the guise of stimulating the economy. If the president wants to show he is sincere, he should suggest that we remove Davis-Bacon prevailing wage restrictions from federal infrastructure projects so taxpayers are not forced to pay top dollar. Purchasing overpriced union labor to please Barack Obama’s support base does not create employment. It just pays wages until the money runs out.