Sunday, October 09, 2011

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

President Obama's American Jobs Act legislation failed to get close to the 60 votes it would need to move to debate on the floor. It will come back in pieces, and a few of them may eventually be passed. I'm thinking that the payroll tax cut (tax cuts are always welcomed by both parties), probably the portion for building and modernizing schools and hospitals, and perhaps the incentive for hiring will pass in some form resembling the one that Obama originally proposed. The revenue piece designed to offset this spending, raising increase in tax rates for the wealthiest, will not, of course.

I'm not sure that the result will achieve any of the objectives: most importantly, employment may be bumped up a notch or two (or a bump down may be offset), but it seems certain the official rate of those without will still be upwards of 8% on Election Day 2012. The record of the vote will be a mushy political weapon: many Senators, even many Democrats, had things they didn't like in such a multi-faceted piece of legislation, and a couple of Democrats even voted against it—others indicated they might have voted against it if it had reached the floor. Obama will certainly be able to claim that he has been hamstrung by a “do-nothing Congress”, a claim which may resonate but will not necessarily buy him, or his party, much in the way of political gain.

Following my general observance of the Talking Heads' Psycho-killer philosophy (“Say something once, why say it again?”) I will not go into too much detail, but I will refer you to one of my better posts, two years ago this month, in which I diagnosed and prescribed for this jobless recovery.

I will repeat and expand my suggestion that the Federal government provide sponsorship for community programs which would restore neighborhoods ravaged by foreclosure and abandonment. Banks should be required to provide support, in the form of contribution of some percentage of owned real estate properties to be turned over and sold for public benefit or conversion to public low-income housing, as well as wages for skilled and unskilled labor doing the restoring. In return, they should get CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) credit, improved value on neighboring properties to which they would retain ownership, and tax deductions for their expenses. It's the least they should be required to do, and it might improve the public's view of their utility and relieve the pressure on them (see below).

Occupy: Is it all about Occupation?

The Chicago Tribune posted me to this site, which lists the “demands” of the Occupy Chicago movement, as follows (I could not find on the site that these “proposed demands” were actually adopted, but I assume they were):
1. Pass a bill to reinstate Glass-Steagall, a safeguard separating banks' commercial lending and investment operations. “Its repeal in 1999 is considerted the major cause of the global financial meltdown of 2008-09”, the group states.
2. Repeal Bush-era tax cuts.
3. Prosecute “the Wall Street criminals who clearly broke the law and helped cause the 2008 financial crisis.”
4. Overturn the Supreme Court decision allowing corporations “to contribute unlimited amounts of money to campaigns”.
5. Pass the Warren Buffett rule on fair taxation, close corporate tax loopholes, prohibit hiding funds offshore.
6. Give the Securities and Exchange Commission stricter regulatory power, strengthen the Consumer Protection bureau and help victims of predatory lending whose home loans have been foreclosed.
7. Take steps to limit the influence of lobbyists and eliminate the practice of lobbyists writing legislation.
8. Eliminate (the) right of former government regulators to work for the corporations or industries they once regulated.
9. Eliminate corporate personhood.
10. Insist the Federal Elections Commission “ensure that political candidates are given equal time for free at reasonable intervals during campaign season”.
11. Pass the Fair Elections Now Act.
12. Forgive student debt.

My comments. I really only oppose the last one, which is impracticable and basically an unconstitutional confiscation of legitimate debt (“only” some $900 billion, they say), and #8, which would excessively limit the right of employment for public servants. I would favor some limited version of that one, in which incoming public servants would agree not to work for certain specified companies or narrow industry code definitions for some period of time (like 5 years), and I would favor some legislated reduction of the debt burden for many student borrowers.

On the other hand, I strongly support #9, #7, #4, and #2, although they might require major legislation (thus, unlikely to happen anytime soon) and #9 or #4 might require a Constituional amendment. I strongly support #10 and #11, though I think they have no chance with either party. I support #1, though I think its importance is overstated; it was seriously considered for the Financial Reform legislation in 2010 but other areas were considered more critical, with good reason. #6, #5, and #3 are commendable in intent but too vague to have much meaning (except the Buffett rule, which I support).

What's missing is anything that would create any jobs, though I admit I'm not sanguine about the chances of any political argument claiming to do that on a lasting basis and large scale here. I think it's a fair criticism to suggest that the Occupy Chicago movement isn't really that interested in getting jobs for its participants (who, clearly, have none)—not that they have to seek them. It just might make the movement a bit more appealing to the working stiffs that make up a good portion of the 99% they suggest that they represent.

And Then There's Mr. Jobs Himself

It's time for me to pay my respects to the late Steve Jobs. First, I must express my sympathy for his family and friends, and my admiration for his determined efforts to carry on despite his debilitating and painful disease.

Respects is most of what I will pay, though; I'm excessively proud of the fact that I don't think I've ever directly paid for any of his products. I find them too expensive for what they do, most of which I don't need. I keep waiting for the price of his laptops to come into range, and they haven't followed the usual pattern. I got an iPod for one of my round-number birthdays from my sister: I said (and say) “thanks”, but I didn't use it much and eventually gave it to my daughter, who appreciates and needs it more. OK, I may buy an iPad before too long if the price comes into line (maybe that's more likely than their laptops' prices do).

What I did do, a few months ago, was buy a few shares. There's no doubt that Apple has the consuming public, and the investment market, too, in thraldom. Not even Jobs' demise could derail the stock, and that was what I was counting upon.

I may not be a big fan of Apple's products, but there's no denying the transformation he brought about, in this country and beyond. Is it healthy? I don't know, but it's certainly what we'd call “progress”, and that should be appealing to a progressive like me.

I haven't done a study of the jobs he's created, but there must be a lot (maybe even in the US). He's certainly created a lot of wealth here, and that shouldn't be a bad thing. Finally, let's salute his success--supposed by Fitzgerald to be rare in America--in performing a hugely successful second act--and third--for himself!

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