03/31/11 - On Jobs, Where is Obama?

This op-ed was published by the USA Today

On Jobs, Where is Obama?

by Mitt Romney
March 31, 2022

Sometimes truth arrives from the most unexpected sources. Christina Romer, President Obama’s former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, said last week that she was dismayed at Washington’s lack of focus on jobs.

“I frankly don’t understand why policymakers aren’t more worried about the suffering of real families,” Romer said. “We need to realize that there is still a lot of devastation out there.” She called the 8.9% unemployment rate “an absolute crisis.”

How bad is it? Last week, in the blue-collar community of Taunton, Mass., the annual jobs fair was canceled because not enough companies came forward to offer jobs.

Defining Deviancy Down was the title of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s seminal account of how American society came to condone previously stigmatized conditions and behavior. Moynihan focused on the growing acceptance of the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, the expansion of single-parent families and the violence in inner cities. To his examples, we can now add joblessness.

Last year, unemployment averaged a shocking 9.6%. The previous year, at 9.3%, was only marginally better. So far in 2011, it has fallen to 8.9%. A consensus has emerged among some economists and politicians that we must accept historically high levels of unemployment over the next several years. Best case forecasts see a range between 7.5% and 8%.

Faces of despair
Even 7.5% unemployment means 11.5 million Americans without jobs. The human cost of that dry statistic can be detailed in a canvas of broken hopes and shattered lives. Workers at job fairs today are confronting an employment market in which there are almost five times as many job seekers as there are openings. Anyone who has visited such a fair or gone to a career center has seen the face of despair up close.

President Obama didn’t cause the recession, but he made it worse and caused it to last longer. From the outset, he inaugurated the most anti-investment, anti-business, anti-jobs policies we have seen since Jimmy Carter. Further, the White House has still not crafted any discernible plan to put Americans back to work.

Creating good, lasting jobs will require the following:

•A tax policy that rewards savings, investment, entrepreneurial risk-taking and exports.

•Free, open and fair access to foreign markets, with a focus on constructive trade reform with China.

•Elimination of the federal bureaucratic and regulatory stranglehold on business.

•A market-driven energy policy that encourages investment in America and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.

•A commitment to fiscal responsibility through budget restraints and entitlement reform.

Not more stimulus
Another stimulus is not the answer: like putting a cup of gasoline on a fire, it produces heat only for a very short time. A stimulus doesn’t lead entrepreneurs and businesses to make the long-term investments in people and capital that will help the unemployed get the good jobs they deserve.

Our high unemployment is a tragedy for millions, and it is a tragedy for America. If our society fails to offer a significant segment of its population the opportunity to participate in economic life, the broader social and moral fabric will fray.

One of our greatest strengths as a nation is our dynamism. When we mobilize to solve a problem, we solve it. It might be a cliché to say that leadership is required, but it also happens to be true.

We don’t have that leadership now. Instead, we have passive acquiescence. Yet, if there was an ever an issue on which all Americans should agree, it is that when it comes to unemployment, the time to define deviancy upward is overdue.

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