|A Conservative’s Guide to Obama’s Flawed Jobs Proposal|
By Troy Senik
Thursday, September 15 2011
When President Obama appeared before a joint session of Congress last week, he pitched his newest supposed economic panacea – the American Jobs Act – as a plan to “provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers for their products and services.”
Infrastructure – Obama proposes about $100 billion in infrastructure spending as part of this plan. Infrastructure can often be an appropriate use of public money, but it can either be effective or it can be a jobs program – it can’t do both. The most efficient infrastructure programs move quickly and are relatively affordable. But using infrastructure spending to gin up employment numbers means creating an incentive to slow projects down (thus keeping workers employed longer) and overpay (particularly to curry favor with unions). What’s more, Obama sold the original stimulus in 2009 partially on the notion that he was putting 400,000 people to work in “shovel-ready jobs” (which he later admitted didn’t exist) in the biggest investment in American infrastructure since the Eisenhower Administration. That obviously failed to have a catalytic effect on the economy. It’s unclear why the president believes a retread would be any different.
“The Bill is Paid For” – Throughout his speech to Congress, Obama repeatedly claimed that “everything in this bill will be paid for.” Later in the speech, he tipped his hand to reveal that what he really meant by that statement was that the congressional “super committee” already tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in cuts to the federal budget would have to do that work for him. Then, feeling the pressure to act, his administration proposed earlier this week that the nearly half a trillion dollars in spending be paid for by higher taxes on income and capital gains, including destructively reducing the deduction for charitable contributions.
Mortgage Refinancing – Obama also proposes that the federal government provide financial assistance to help refinance mortgages to market rates, keeping Americans who would otherwise face foreclosure in their homes. While this initiative is no doubt well intended, it’s bad economic policy. The Obama Administration already tried it once, spending $75 billion on the Making Home Affordable Act in 2009. But, as that program proved in its first year – when more than 40 percent of its participants ended up being kicked out – no amount of fiscal legerdemain on Washington’s part can make a bad mortgage good. Markets will have to clear before the housing sector recovers – and that means getting people who can’t afford ownership into rentals and letting those who have prudently saved their money take advantage of the buyer’s market in real estate.
Police, Firefighters, and Teachers – Finally, Obama is pledging $35 billion to save the jobs of (or hire) police, firefighters and teachers. All three of these classes of public servants provide invaluable services to their communities, but giving them federal subsidies only creates perverse incentives for the state and local governments that employ them. Many in these ranks enjoy exorbitant pensions and/or health care benefits, making them needlessly costly to taxpayers. In addition, many politicians faced with belt-tightening put these sympathetic groups on the chopping block first, hoping that the public outcry will lead to broader support for new taxes. In essence, Obama is underwriting both of those destructive practices.
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