Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jobs Bill, Maybe, Wall Street Transaction Tax, Maybe Not

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scoffs at the idea floated last week by some of her Democratic colleagues that new job creation legislation could be funded by a tax on stock, bond and futures transactions on Wall Street financial markets, and Obama administration officials are equally cool to the idea, though some executive branch officials have spoken favorably in recent days about the desirability of “targeted” proposals for quick new laws to boost American employment. Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio and New York Congressman Michael Arcuri are circulating a proposal for a financial transaction tax to raise $150 billion every year. Pelosi says such a new tax could drive Wall Street jobs overseas. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner echoes that such a tax would be “inappropriate” for the United States.

Vice President Biden’s chief economic adviser Jared Bernstein says, though, that the administration is looking for new ways to make sure the economic recovery is not a jobless one. Bernstein’s suggestions include direct public works programs such as hiring the jobless to board up vacant buildings, help with child care, and paint school buildings.

Meanwhile, at a hearing last Thursday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Congressmen continue attacking the claim on Recovery.gov that the $787 billion stimulus package has created 640,000 jobs so far. GAO reported at the hearing that the web site was replete with “a range of significant reporting and quality issues,” including 60,000 jobs reported as created without any dollars being spent, and 9,000 reports of money spent with no jobs created. House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Edolphus Towns said after hearing the GAO testimony, “It is clear that errors found by GAO and others should be corrected immediately, not months later, no matter how difficult.”

Finally, economists are beginning to challenge President Obama’s campaign emphasis on green job creation as a solution to continuing economic growth. Georgia State’s Economic Forecasting Center Director Rajeev Dhawan says green jobs are “not the spark. This is not the solution to the current big unemployment problem.” His sentiments are seconded by Manhattan Institute economist Max Schulz: “For all the talk about green job creation, there’s an unavoidable problem with renewable energy technologies and the policies that promote them: From an economic standpoint, they’re big losers. Renewables can’t produce the large volumes of useful, reliable energy that our economy needs at attractive prices. Government subsidizes renewable because – all things being equal – the free market won’t.”

A recent survey by the Transportation Construction Coalition is also putting a damper on the pet political theory that additional funding for road and bridge projects will be a job saving legislative measure. Despite injecting $27 billion into such projects through the stimulus package, more than a million construction sector jobs have been lost in the past 12 months. Furthermore, this month’s Coalition survey indicates that 44% of road and transit contractors expect to lay off more permanent employees this year, even though they have received stimulus supported contracts.
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