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The Morning Bell 2/19/10

February 20, 2010

A No-Cost Stimulus That Can Create Real Jobs for the American People

In today’s Wall Street Journal, former President Bill Clinton’s pollster Doug Schoen writes: “Sen. Evan Bayh’s stunning decision to retire should serve as more than a wake-up call to Democrats. It should spur a fundamental re-examination and reorientation of the party’s policies, practices and approaches leading into the fall election. Let’s be clear. The Democratic brand is in trouble — big trouble. … The Democrats need to do a number of things. First and foremost, they need to recognize there is only one fundamental issue in America: jobs.”

Unfortunately, the White House is not getting the message. Where Schoen urges President Barack Obama to “go back to square one” on health care, The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration is doing the exact opposite: they are set to introduce their own health care bill on Monday that is specifically designed to pass the Senate through reconciliation on a strictly partisan vote. And when the left is not continuing to shove a government takeover of health care down the throats of the American people, they are working on a second stimulus plan that repeats all of the same big government borrow-and-spend mistakes of the first.

And there is no debate: by any objective measure, President Obama’s first stimulus was a complete failure. When President Obama signed the $862 billion first stimulus, the unemployment rate stood at 7.6% and the U.S. economy employed 133.5 million people. The President promised that, thanks to his stimulus, unemployment would never go higher than 8.2% and the U.S. economy would support 138.6 million jobs by December 2010. Today, unemployment is 9.7%, after rising above 10%, and the U.S. economy has lost almost 6 million jobs, leaving the White House 9 million jobs short of the 138.6 million they promised to deliver. The White House may claim their stimulus “saved” 2 million jobs, but they have zero real world evidence of this. As Heritage fellow Brian Riedl explains:

Specifically, the White House’s “proof” that the stimulus created jobs is an economic model that they programmed to assume that stimulus spending automatically creates jobs. How’s that for circular logic?

The idea that government spending creates jobs makes sense only if you never ask where the government got the money. It didn’t fall from the sky. The only way Congress can inject spending into the economy is by first taxing or borrowing it out of the economy. No new demand is created; it’s a zero-sum transfer of existing demand.

If deficit spending were the path to real-world economic growth, then the Greek economy would be booming. It’s not. There is an alternative. There are some no-cost measures our federal government could take that could create the space for American entrepreneurship and private investment, resulting in real long-term job growth. Heritage fellow James Sherk identifies eight such measures, including:

  • Freezing all proposed tax hikes and costly regulations at least until unemployment falls below 7 percent;
  • Freezing spending and rescinding unspent stimulus funds;
  • Reforming regulations to reduce unnecessary business costs, such as repealing Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act;
  • Reforming the tort system to lower costs and uncertainty facing businesses;
  • Removing barriers to domestic energy production;
  • Suspending the job-killing Davis-Bacon Act (DBA);
  • Passing pending free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama; and
  • Reducing taxes on companies’ foreign earnings if they bring those earnings home.

Those wishing to score cheap political points against the conservative movement often falsely claim that conservatives hate the federal government. Nothing could be further from the truth. As The Mt. Vernon Statement, signed Tuesday by a broad coalition of conservative leaders, attests, our nation’s Founding Fathers ratified a U.S. Constitution that “created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law.” But while government is necessary to establish the rule of law required for any free market to function, that government must also be limited so that it does not create the uncertainties in the marketplace that undermine economic growth. The specific measures outlined above are consistent with these principles. And Doug Schoen is right – the Obama administration “needs to understand that the American people, particularly those who support the tea party movement, will only come back to Democrats if it demonstrates that it understands voters’ desire to return to the kind of limited government the movement endorses.”

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