By Cameron Smith
Currently, there are almost 600 bills before Congress that contain the word “job.” Politicians have talked about “job creation” nonstop. Oddly enough, this rhetoric demonstrates that those political leaders are listening to what concerns Americans, primarily their economic future.
Their responses fall into two fundamental categories: Those who believe that the government creates jobs and economic growth, and those who believe the private sector accomplishes those ends. The former believe that substantial government spending charges the economy in troubled economic times while the latter tend to believe an unhindered marketplace will correct itself.
After listening to President Obama’s “jobs speech” to Congress, Americans should have little doubt that the President believes the government has a central role in job creation and a virtually unfettered control over the economy.
President Obama led off by stating that government needs to ask whether “[it] can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning.” Remember, this is the same nation that Ben Franklin admonished should not give up “essential liberty to purchase … temporary safety” lest it “deserve neither liberty nor safety.” This is a nation where meaningful opportunities for all are prized above equal outcomes. The President’s sentiment is troubling, not because “fairness” and “security” have suddenly become vices, but because government imposition of those virtues is radically different than the average American’s concept of them.
The President even acknowledged that “the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs … has made this economy the engine and the envy of the world.” But he also qualified those remarks by suggesting that Americans share “a belief that we’re all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.”
The President is correct that there are some things Americans can only do together as a nation, and even more convenient for the President, Americans have agreed on those tasks. The Constitution provides a number of express powers where states and individuals, through the federal government, work together for the common welfare. Conversely, the same Constitution prevents the federal government from interfering in the lives of individuals, their communities, and their states where powers are not granted to the federal government. These constitutional restraints do not mean the American tradition of helping each other is dead but rather that the tradition has meaning because it comes from the hearts of the American people rather than by government compulsion.
Regrettably, President Obama has a different perspective on the limits of government. During the speech, the President asked, “[w]hat kind of country would this be if [Congress] had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do?” The “rigid ideas” that limit government action are found in the Constitution. The President would do well to remember that those ideas were enshrined by those who knew the threat of powerful oppressive government to free society, the countless Americans who shed their blood to protect them, and a people who have agreed to amend them only 27 times over more than 200 years.
When the President of the United States takes such a jaundiced view toward fundamental restraints on the federal government, Americans should be outraged. The Constitution’s limits on government are there SPECIFICALLY to prevent the federal government from becoming too powerful. Even when they are not convenient, those limits are extremely important.
Parts of the President’s plan for stimulating the economy make sense. Stabilizing and reducing costs for Medicaid and Medicare as well as authorizing free trade agreements are music to the ears of many Americans. Unfortunately, these are conspicuously absent from the American Jobs Act which the President called on Congress to pass.
Many components such as new unemployment benefits and “shovel ready” infrastructure projects are simply another chorus of an all-too-familiar tune. Rather than engaging in common sense tax reform, the President’s tax credits fail to reduce the overall tax burden on job creators by borrowing against Social Security and putting conditions on the types of workers those businesses must hire to obtain the credits. To be sure, America needs a real infrastructure plan for the future, and tax reform has been put off for too long. But the President’s political “Hail Mary” falls far short of meeting those requirements.
The President also failed to mention the $450 billion cost of his plan. While he assured America that “everything in [his] bill will be paid for,” the White House summary of the American Jobs Act states that “the President will call on the Joint Committee [on Deficit Reduction] to come up with additional deficit reduction necessary to pay for the Act and still meet its deficit target.”
Relying on the highly divided “supercommittee” to come up with another $450 billion in cuts on top of the $1.5 trillion already assigned seems highly unlikely.
Even if that substantial cost could be offset, the Congressional Budget Office projects a $1.3 trillion deficit for 2011 alone. Should Congress could find a way to “pay for” the President’s proposals, they would almost certainly be doing so with money the American people do not have.
With unemployment at more than nine percent, Americans definitely need jobs. They also need representatives and a President who understand their limits.
[Since Smith wrote this article, President Obama has proposed paying for his jobs bill by “closing the corporate tax loophole and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.” In other words, he wants the rich to pay for government screw ups. It’s federal government monetary policies that aid the development of financial bubbles and busts. It is the federal government that has increases the national debt to unsustainable levels. If enough Americans buy Obama’s tax increasing strategy, the middle class will end up paying for it through increased prices on goods and services, which is also known as trickle-down inflation.]
Cameron Smith is General Counsel for the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.