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Okay, Let's Talk About Jobs
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Fifty-Seven
by Brian S. Wise
09 March 2004

"Three million jobs lost" is good populism, but impractical because of the things it fails to consider.


Watching Senator Edwards “suspend his campaign for the presidency” last Wednesday, one couldn’t help but wonder why, if Edwards was truly finished, he was still talking.

Probably to remind us for the three thousandth time there are Two Americas -- the America of George W. Bush, that of the corporations, the wealthy and the powerful, and the America of Senator John Edwards (and now, by logical extension, Nominee Kerry), that of the regular people, the downtrodden; those without health insurance and jobs, ad infinitum.  (Interesting that Edwards can get his head around an idea like Two Americas but has yet to explain how a majority of voters in either America failed to vote for him in twenty-nine primaries and caucuses.)

Among Senator Edwards’ parting remarks: “I see the man and women at Page Belting in Concord, New Hampshire who wonder if anyone understands the struggles that they face and most Americans face in their lives.”  Right.  And if we have learned nothing from modern Democratism, it’s that the fabulously wealthy (i.e., Republicans like Bush and Cheney) have lost touch with the common man by virtue of being fabulously wealthy.  Which says nothing of Senator Edwards, who tips the scale at something close to forty million dollars, and Senator Kerry, who married into six hundred million and change, but had a few bucks of his own laying around in the first place.

About Nominee Kerry: “He has fought for and will continue to fight for the things that all of us [his lips say “all Americans” but his eyes say “Democrats”] believe in: more jobs, better health care, cleaner air, cleaner water, a safer world.”  You should know by now Republicans hate the hell out of things like more jobs, better health care, clean air, clean water and a safer world.  (Apparently a safer world has no connection to a more stable and free Middle East, from which so much unsafe behavior has sprung over recent years.)  And Republicans particularly hate the idea of more jobs, because no one in politics is turned on by the idea of more people contributing to the tax base.

No reputable economist looks at the most recent data (say, that released just last week) and sees only negative.  A candidate can say that only twenty-one thousand jobs were added in February and that the unemployment rate remains at 5.6 percent (though no one has yet explained why 5.6 percent is such a deplorable number).  But what is it that prevents the same candidate from saying jobless claims dropped to three hundred and forty-five thousand week before last, mortgage requests continue to increase, GM and Chrysler reported increased sales, consumer spending rose .04 percent in January, and that manufacturing has begun to add new jobs?

Well, campaigning politicians aren’t reputable economists; they’re opportunists.  To say America has lost three million jobs since President Bush took office is one thing, to not say how many jobs have been added since the recovery began (one year ago) is intellectually dishonest.  Twenty-one thousand added in February, one hundred and six thousand in January and one thousand in December; not what everyone would have hoped for, but one hundred and twenty-eight thousand in three months is better than zero.

The key phrase at this stage of the campaign is “outsourcing,” companies sending jobs overseas (the most common example seems to be phone jobs to India, but manufacturing jobs to Mexico is another concern).  The conservative is divided on how best to consider the question.  On one hand, the more Americans employed by American companies, the better for those employees, their families, et cetera.  On the other hand, companies aren’t in business to provide for employees; they’re in business to make profits, serve their shareholders and make more profits.  The less overhead involved in that process, the more likely the odds of making profits.

Democrats will tell you the well being of unemployed Americans is more important than the profits of companies.  Such populism is impractical because it speaks more to the emotion of an issue than it does to logic.  A politician wanting to create jobs should make things as comfortable for business as possible – in terms of taxation and repetitive regulation – and get out of the way.  If several hundred thousand positions are filled between now and the Democratic convention, it won’t be enough to say “the problem” has been solved, but just enough to say the president’s remedies are effective and should be left alone to work their magic.

Brian Wise is the lead columnist for Intellectual Conservative.

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