OK, here it is, the one substantive suggestion regarding job creation in Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, dutifully reported by The Hill:
“Tonight, I propose a ‘Fix-It-First’ program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country,” Obama said in his address Tuesday night.
“Fix It First” sounds snappy, like something Mad Men‘s Peggy Olson would come up with on deadline if Don Draper was breathing down her neck. But $50 billion is a small percentage of the amount needed to fix the country’s infrastructure and put back to work the millions who’ve lost jobs since the so-called Great Recession began. And most of Obama’s other proposed initiatives — better schools and job training, a minimum wage hike, a renewed focus on manufacturing, an end to tax subsidies that encourage outsourcing of jobs – made good sound bites but aren’t likely to happen, as Obama well knows.
So is that all there is? Is Obama’s call for investment in job creation consistent with his commitment to $1.5 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade? Is he a good guy, or does he merely seem like one compared to the bizarre coalition of crackers and corporate sharks at the base of the Republican Party?
One thing’s for sure — Obama can’t possibly think significant job creation can happen in the wake of big budget cuts. Robert Kuttner got to the heart of the matter in a recent column:
The White House shares with the Republican right and the corporate center-right the assumption that we achieve a full economic recovery by targeting a lower debt ratio by 2023, and that we reduce the debt ratio by cutting the deficit.
As recent events have shown (in case there was any doubt) this sequence is backwards. The debt ratio comes down when the economy recovers. Fiscal contraction slows the recovery, and the loss of public investment denies the government the very tools it needs to use education and infrastructure to help rebuild the middle class.