Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is a Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His website can be found here and his blog can be found here.
The president wants businesses that hire new employees this year to get $5,000 per hire, in the form of a tax credit. That will come to about $33 billion. It’s good step. He’s also supporting a cut in the capital gains tax for small businesses. That makes sense; after all, small businesses generate most jobs.
But here’s the problem. Both of these measures, and many of the other tax cuts he’s proposing, give ammunition to supply-siders who think the way out of this awful economy is simply to cut taxes on businesses. If a new jobs tax credit is a good idea, why not a cut corporate in income taxes? If it’s useful to reduce capital gains taxes for small businesses, why isn’t it useful to reduce them for all businesses?
President Obama today offered a set of proposals for helping America’s troubled middle class. All are sensible and worthwhile. But none will bring jobs back. And Americans could be forgiven for wondering how the president plans to enact any of these ideas anyway, when he can no longer muster 60 votes in the Senate.
The bigger news is Obama is planning a three-year budget freeze on a big chunk of discretionary spending. Wall Street is delighted. But it means Main Street is in worse trouble than ever.
A spending freeze will make it even harder to get jobs back because government is the last spender around. Consumers have pulled back, investors won’t do much until they know consumers are out there, and exports are minuscule.
It has been more than a year since all hell broke loose on Wall Street and, remarkably, almost nothing has been done to prevent all hell from breaking loose again.
In fact, close your eyes and you could be back in the wilds of 2007. Bankers are still making wild bets, still devising new derivatives, still piling on debt. The big banks have access to money almost as cheaply as in 2007, courtesy of the Fed, so bank profits are up and bonuses as generous as at the height of the boom.
There’s only one big remaining issue on health-care reform: how to pay for it. The House wants a 5.4 percent surtax on couples earning at least $1 million in annual income. The Senate wants a 40 percent excise tax on employer-provided “Cadillac plans.” The Senate will win on this unless the public discovers that a large portion of the so-called Cadillacs are really middle-class Chevys -- expensive not because they deliver more benefits but because they have higher costs.
Just about everything you'll hear coming out of Washington starting now is really about November's midterm election. The gravitational pull of the midterms was already apparent last year, as Republicans marched in perfect lockstep to vote against whatever the president and Dems proposed -- Republicans always have authoritarian discipline on their side, which is why they're Republicans -- but you haven't seen anything yet.