Dust Cre­ation or Job Creation?

Repub­li­cans pledged to gov­ern on a plat­form of job cre­ation after their soar­ing 2010 midterm elec­tion vic­tory. The U.S. econ­omy was clearly in the crap­per — the rea­sons for this are out­side the scope of the arti­cle — and there needed to be an hon­est debate on the causes and cures for the eco­nomic mess we found our­selves in.

Most ana­lysts agreed that focus­ing on eco­nomic issues was a win­ner for the Repub­li­cans. What­ever one’s feel­ings on Pres­i­dent Obama, and the causes for the cur­rent cri­sis, there is broad agree­ment amongst Amer­i­cans of all polit­i­cal stripes that the unem­ploy­ment rate is too high.

The Repub­li­cans say they’re focus­ing on job cre­ation. On gop​.gov, they claim there are 28 “bipar­ti­san job cre­ation” bills await­ing Sen­ate action, not-​​so-​​subtly imply­ing that Sen­ate Major­ity Leader Harry Reid (D-​​NV) and the Democrat-“controlled” Sen­ate are hold­ing up key bills. (In real­ity, with clo­ture rules, no one party “con­trols” the Sen­ate, but that’s another story for another day.)

How­ever, when one looks a lit­tle beneath the sur­face, these so-​​called “job cre­ation” bills are noth­ing more than naked par­ti­san swipes at the Pres­i­dent and Democ­rats. For exam­ple, num­ber two on the Republican’s list is HR 1633, the Farm Dust Reg­u­la­tion Pre­ven­tion Act of 2011, which pre­vents the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency from mak­ing reg­u­la­tions about par­tic­u­late mat­ter from farms. I sup­pose a rather tor­tured case can be made for job cre­ation in this case, but it’s a dif­fi­cult sell dur­ing an elec­tion year.

HR 3012 is the Fair­ness for High-​​Skilled Immi­grants Act of 2011. Rather than attempt to improve the edu­ca­tional sys­tem in this coun­try, it pro­poses to lighten visa restric­tions on high-​​tech work­ers from China (and no other coun­try). While I’m gen­er­ally in favor of this ini­tia­tive, I’m hav­ing a dif­fi­cult time con­nect­ing the dots so they cre­ate a path to the goal of reduc­ing Amer­i­can unemployment.

A care­ful exam­i­na­tion of these “job cre­ation” bills reveals that the vast major­ity have to do with eas­ing sup­pos­edly bur­den­some gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions. That may cre­ate jobs, but the reg­u­la­tions that are being eased (like farm dust) are small pota­toes com­pared to the num­ber of jobs the econ­omy needs to create.

In the absence of any effec­tive job cre­ation strat­egy from either side of the aisle — a symp­tom of the “do-​​nothing Con­gress” — Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates have turned to moral issues. Now comes a push by Repub­li­cans in Con­gress on whether employ­ers should be required to pro­vide con­tra­cep­tive pre­scrip­tions, clearly another in their series of impor­tant job cre­ation bills.

So it is that this week’s news is about the Big Bad Obama Admin­is­tra­tion “forc­ing” health care plans to cover con­tra­cep­tive ser­vices, even when the employer may be morally opposed to con­tra­cep­tion. I’d like to exam­ine the likely suc­cess of such a strat­egy. (more…)