Worrisome Thoughts on the Way to the Jobs Summit.

Most ideas for creating more jobs assume jobs will return when the economy recovers. So the immediate goal is to accelerate the process. A second stimulus would be helpful, especially directed at state governments that are now mounting an anti-stimulus package (tax increases, job cuts, service cuts) of over $200 billion this year and next. If the deficit hawks threaten to take flight, the administration should use the remaining TARP funds.

Other less expensive ideas include a new jobs tax credit for any firm creating net new jobs. Lending directed at small businesses, which are having a hard time getting credit but are responsible for most new jobs. A one-year payroll tax holiday on the first, say, $20,000 of income – which would quickly put money into peoples’ pockets and simultaneously make it cheaper for businesses to hire because they pay half the payroll tax. And a WPA style program that hires jobless workers directly to, say, insulate homes.

Most of this would be helpful. Together, they might take the official unemployment rate down a notch or two.

But here's the real worry. The basic assumption that jobs will eventually return when the economy recovers is probably wrong. Some jobs will come back, of course. But the reality that no one wants to talk about is a structural change in the economy that's been going on for years but which the Great Recession has dramatically accelerated.

--Robert Reich

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