No Way! Dissent In The Jobs Council? Way!
At Disney World last week, President Obama announced new executive orders to speed up visas for foreign tourists to the United States. The measure, a priority for the travel industry, was one of several sensible recommendations made in the last year by Mr. Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, a 27-member panel of corporate executives, academics, investors and labor leaders. The White House has carried out 17 others so far.
Increasingly, however, the council’s recommendations have resembled not so much expert advice as a corporate wish list. In a report last October, the council’s sound proposals for job-creating public works projects wereovershadowed by its unfounded claim that antifraud provisions put in place in 2002 in response to Enron are an impediment to growth and hiring, and should be ended.
Its latest report, issued last week, went so far in the direction of the Republican political agenda that it was endorsed by House Speaker John Boehner for its emphasis on lower tax rates and less regulation. The report drew the ire of the panel’s two union members, Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., and Joseph Hansen, chairman of the Change to Win coalition. After the false premises and false fixes that have dominated the job creation debate, the dispute is healthy.
Mr. Trumka wrote a dissent in which he agreed that the United States has fallen behind other countries in investment in infrastructure, manufacturing, education, job skills and alternative energy. What he rightly objected to was the idea that less regulation, lower corporate tax rates and other demands on the business agenda are the key to restoring competitiveness and creating jobs. “Without timely action by government on a large scale,” he wrote, “solutions will continue to elude us as a nation.”
For example, the report’s recommendations for improving education focused in large part on ensuring that schools meet the needs of corporations. It is important to ensure that Americans have the right skills — and opportunities to acquire new skills. The urgent and fundamental need, however, is to support, improve and sustain a strong public education system. That means more, not less, federal aid for states and localities to hire and retain teachers and for students to attend college, and for additional services to help poor and disadvantaged children to succeed academically, including meals and health care.
It is also crucially important to recognize that unemployment today is not primarily driven by a skills gap — as the council’s report would lead you to believe — but by lack of jobs. If all of the job openings in America were filled tomorrow, nearly 10 million of the nation’s 13.1 million unemployed workers would still be out of work. That shortage requires more federal aid to bolster demand, not a focus on a less pressing skills gap.
All of this would require more tax revenue, but the report discusses corporate tax reform that would not raise more money and would make it easier for American multinational corporations to avoid United States tax on foreign profits. The report claims the changes are needed to improve competitiveness and create jobs. Mr. Trumka pointed out that such changes could do the opposite, leaving the nation financially unable to meet its challenges, while disadvantaging companies without a foreign presence.
At a time when austerity is in vogue, it is also morally indefensible to not ask for more from corporations. This is just the kind of substantive debate that is needed to help ensure that corporate and partisan interests do not define the problems and dictate the solutions. Source: NYT Opinion Pages.