I spent this Black Friday at Macy’s. I got up early after a family Thanksgiving and arrived at Macy’s at 5:10 a.m. Unlike previous years, the store was packed from the get-go. Usually the store takes about an hour to fill up, but not this year. Although I partially go for the suit sales, I also go just to talk to people in the many coffee shops they have throughout the giant store. My conclusion this year is that people went for the bargains but they also went for the entertainment and to lift their spirits a bit. The jobs news has not been good, and on Sunday the headline in the New York Times was “Food-stamp use soars across U.S. and stigma fades.”
Many people were so hopeful a year ago when President Obama took office. The news about the economy was front-and-center, and the middle-swing voter was hopeful that this president would have answers. Unfortunately, the problems that are facing our country are bigger than one man, one president. It is going to take massive changes to make a difference and create jobs.
Joseph Stiglitz, who was chief economist at the World Bank and a Nobel Prize winner in economics, said in October that “figures on gross domestic product are ‘very good,’ the numbers would be ‘miserable’ without stimulus measures enacted by the Obama administration.” When we look at if workers can get jobs, if they can work full-time, if businesses are able to sell goods they produce, in those terms, we are nowhere near the end of recession. The U.S. job market is still “in very bad shape.”
You don’t need a Nobel-Prize-winning economist to know that the U.S. job market is in “very bad shape,” and from my conversations at Macy’s on Friday morning you don’t need a lot of economists to find out how to create more jobs. There are many good and solid ideas to move our economy to solid growth. A few of the ideas include:
Tax holidays for job creation. Spencer Ante writing about a study on job creation by Robert Litan suggests that start-ups have created most of the new jobs both recently and in the big recession of 1980-1983. This study was done for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Litan’s idea is to give a payroll-tax holiday to new start-up companies. Although he says that large companies create 10 percent of new jobs, most of those jobs are created by these corporations acquiring smaller newer start-ups.
Health care is one-sixth of our economy, but the guilds and professional societies want to protect their turf. It makes perfect sense as the years and years of training it takes to be a physician need to be reimbursed given the amount of loans that most medical students take on. One sure way to make sure there is job creation in a field that is going to experience rapid growth with the passage of any health-care bill is to develop more training slots for physician residencies for American students. We also need to develop more health-care training opportunities. In one year, almost 10 percent of newly licensed registered nurses were from foreign nursing schools with a net job number of 10,000, and that was before health-care reform.
If you expand those numbers to physician assistants, lab technologists, etc., it becomes clear that we must make an investment in educating our own citizens.
Infrastructure jobs: The current stimulus bill was laden with highway jobs and other projects to update our current infrastructure. It needs to be done as we have seen crumbling bridges and schools, but, as I said in a recent column, we need someone to think not just of the repairs needed but to think more broadly about what is going to make this country move again. Two projects that would take broad thinking and broad cooperation are innovative transportation solutions and innovative broadband solutions. Two possible ideas are to find areas that have highway and airport congestion and develop bullet trains in those areas. We do not have one bullet train in the United States. We also do not have a real national grid for broadband. Broadband is piecemeal, and there is rancor between private companies and municipalities that want to increase broadband.
There are many other job-creation opportunities, and we have all heard about green jobs among other ideas. All of these are possible, but the overall question is if the political will exists. That is only a question that your local friendly member of Congress can answer. I suggest you ask them.