Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I am interested to see what the president offers in his “jobs initiative” speech. Since this column is written before the speech, I cannot offer any critique of his plan. So I will address what I hope the program contains in order to put some people back to work.
First of all, I hope the president’s plan is a little more organized than his “kickoff” address on Labor Day. One of those who spoke at the rally before President Obama was Jimmy Hoffa Jr., national president of the Teamster’s Union. Hoffa said unions need to fight a war against Tea Partiers and congressional Republicans. He added, “President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let’s take these SOBs out and take America back to where we belong.” Minutes later, the president called for congressional cooperation, saying, “There is work to be done and workers ready to do it … We just need Congress to get on board. Let’s put America back to work.”
So you have the son of a thug calling for the heads of the very people the president will need to work with to reach an accord — not exactly greasing the skids. It is a free country, and Hoffa can say what he wants. But the president should have enough sense to distance himself from Hoffa and his ilk. Of course, that is difficult because the unions are a source of huge support to the president, as well as to the Democratic Party. So the president is forced to grit his teeth because he is beholden to the unions, and cannot afford to anger them.
It is no different with the Republicans. They, too, have certain groups they feel they cannot afford to cross, like big business and big oil. A friend of mine once posed the idea that instead of suits and ties, politicians should be required to wear NASCAR-type uniforms sporting the logos of all the major contributors to their campaigns so the public could see who owned them. What a great idea.
I hope the plan goes further than acting as a temporary economic Band-Aid. Early outlines of the initiative call for billions in construction work on infrastructure — bridges, roads, schools, etc. It is good to put money into tangible items. A few years ago, when Washington bailed out Wall Street firms, much of that money later went for bonuses to the very people whose reckless financial products helped wreck the economy in the first place. That is kind of like the guy who poisons your dog asking to be reimbursed for the hamburger and strychnine. Construction jobs are good, but are not a long-term solution to this troubled economy.
I hope the speech offers something to small- and medium-sized businesses. Those are the people who are in a position to create good, sustainable jobs. Find a way to give hiring incentives to those businesses.
I hope the speech addresses job training. People who have lost their jobs to outsourcing overseas need to be retrained. The industrial giant, Siemens, claims it has 3,000 jobs that need to be filled right now, but cannot find qualified workers. We spend billions of dollars each year on education and technical school funding. How can it be possible in this economy for 3,000 good jobs to go unfilled? How about incentives to businesses for training and hiring unemployed or underemployed?
Finally, I hope the speech is long on specifics and short on rhetoric. Politicians tend to speak in platitudes and offer pep talks in lieu of blueprints. It is much easier to come up with catchy phrases than a concrete plan that will allow some folks to go back to work.
We don’t need talk; if rhetoric and bluster from Washington created jobs, we would already be at full employment.