Today President Obama is hosting a White House “jobs summit.” Attendees will include “about 130 business leaders, union chiefs, academics, mayors and representatives of nonprofit groups.”
Andrea Tantaros at the New York Daily News gets it right:
Politicians constantly need to create the impression that they’re actually getting paid to do something. President Obama is no different. Today, the White House will host a Jobs Summit …
Obama’s goal is to show he’s serious about taking action on the backsliding economy and to convince the electorate that public activity means real policy action.
I’ll have to crash Obama’s party, because summits are giant publicity stunts where loads of taxpayer money is spent on fancy backdrops, flower arrangements and so much glad-handing and back-slapping that the participants leave with calluses and whiplash.
The timing is twofold, and painfully transparent: Hosting a high-profile gathering will allow the White House to portray an engaged Obama at a time when polls show the public believes his domestic agenda is in a hole. More importantly, the summit gives Obama a desperately needed distraction – especially during the holidays when the unemployed are acutely aware of their situation.
The President doesn’t need to waste taxpayer money on another “summit.” But in his heart Barack Obama is a full-fledged member of the elite academy, and the academy never attempts to propose a solution to a problem without talking it to death first. Besides, this White House never seems to miss any opportunity to entertain guests.
Instead of talking, President Obama and his economic advisers should do more observing and more listening. Reuters’ James Pethokoukis recently highlighted this sobering quote from Dr. John Silvia, chief economist for Wachovia and Wells Fargo:
In recent years, permanent layoffs have surpassed temporary layoffs and this is reflected in the rapid rise in the mean duration of unemployment. In addition, the disparity of unemployment by education levels signals that the demand of employers for more highly educated workers does not fit well with the available supply of workers. Current policy initiatives have perverse economic effects. Health care mandates will likely raise the cost of labor and thereby discourage hiring.
Second, the increase in the minimum wage has clearly negatively impacted hiring teenage workers evident in the recent increase in teenage unemployment rates. Cap-and-trade will likely increase the cost of energy and transportation for employers and thereby reduce any funds left to hire workers. At present, the uncertainty about potential micro policies is more than offsetting any positive impact on jobs from the fiscal stimulus.(emphasis added)
It’s a simple fact that the economy cannot be stimulated when businesses are hunkering down in anticipation of higher taxes and greater regulatory costs, due to pending government legislation. And when businesses are continually laying-off instead of hiring, consumers are worried about keeping their jobs and they become reluctant to spend money. This is true regardless of how much money the government tries to spend on “stimulus” programs to create make-work jobs and temporarily ease unemployment.
If the President was serious about stimulating the economy, his initiatives would include tax rate freezes or cuts, serious attempts to reduce Federal spending at all levels, especially programs to eliminate waste and inefficiency, a halt on controversial legislation (Cap and Trade, ObamaCare, etc.) that would have significant fiscal impact on businesses, and an immediate effort to get banks to begin increasing commercial credit lines back to pre-2008 levels. The fact that we have not seen explicit action in any of those areas makes many of us wonder exactly what the President’s priorities really are.
Action, Mr. President, not talk, is what will get our economy moving again.