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One month ago, I asked for your ideas to jumpstart the economy at little to no cost. Everyone (even President Obama now) recognizes the fact that Republicans are more interested in spending the next 14 months making sure President Obama loses HIS job than helping unemployed Americans find one of their own. On Friday, New York Mayor Bloomberg told Washington that if they don’t stop fighting and doing something about unemployment soon, we could see “rioting in the streets”. Republicans’ growing ideological unwillingness to raise taxes on anyone they consider a “job creator”… while actually making the case that the poor & middle-class aren’t paying enough in taxes (or are actually getting richer)… means that the only way Democrats are going to fix the economy is without the GOP’s help.
We all know our country is in desperate need of updating our crumbling infrastructure. But infrastructure costs money, and with current high unemployment and Republican’s steadfast unwillingness to approve increased spending (not just out of a growing insane adherence to a failed ideology, but to hurt Obama in 2012), we must come up with creative new ways to do what’s needed without additional spending. “Sounds perfect! Why do it any other way?” Because it’s SLOW. You can create MORE jobs (like wholesale rebuilding of our infrastructure) in a shorter period of time when there’s no limit on spending. Ronald Reagan tripled the National Debt to spend the economy out of Recession back in the 80’s (back when Conservatives weren’t obsessed with “deficit spending”.) Republican’s don’t obsess over spending until a “Democrat” takes the White House.
A number of Progressive websites like DailyKOS and Jane Hamsher’s “Fire Dog Lake” have cited economists listing “quick & easy” ways for President Obama to create jobs “on his own” without having to seek the approval of Republicans unwilling to consider anything other than “tax cuts” (but only for the rich; also here). Add to that, Republicans believe The Stimulus (which spent more on “tax cuts” than actual job creation) was “a total failure”, and will NEVER agree to ANY additional spending to save the economy. I looked through KOS’s and FDL’s lists and felt most of their ideas wanting, relying heavily on ending the wars and using the defense budget to rebuild our infrastructure as “a matter of National Defense”. Sounds good, but wars don’t end overnight, and it’s not realistic to think we can.
So here is my list of Ten Ways President Obama Can Revive the Economy and Create Jobs TODAY Without Spending ONE DIME:
(vote for your favorites below:)
- You’ve likely seen by now my Petition to re-appropriate the $4 Billion dollars a year we give to oil companies, and spend that money to put *American-Made* solar panels on the roofs of some 40,000 government buildings or issue a contract for 100,000 *American-Made* hybrid mail-trucks. Not only would these contracts immediately create tens of thousands of Green Jobs with a future (not to mention all the tangential jobs), they would jumpstart entire industries, and encourage companies to modernize by investing in new equipment, technologies, and skilled personnel. Such investments would also reduce Greenhouse gas emissions and pay for themselves with the energy savings (saving even more tax-dollars over the long-run.)
- Raise tariffs on imports from countries that use tariffs to undercut us. You may not know this, but ONE-HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN countries charge import taxes on the stuff we sell to them. Among that list: China, Mexico, India, even Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia all charge import duties on the stuff we try to sell in their countries. Few Conservative ideas have done more harm to the American labor market than “Free Trade”. Economically, it makes perfect sense NOT to charge tariffs on things we can’t produce here at home. But it is INSANE to allow countries like India & China that pay their workers a pittance (who then live in tin-roofed slums) to undercut American workers. The net effect of 20 years of this “free trade” nonsense has left us with a HUGE $53 BILLION dollar trade deficit, with American products undercut by imports made using cheap foreign labor, destroying sales and costing jobs. Republicans LOVE “free trade” because the OWNERS of a company profit no matter where their products are made. And the cheaper they can make it, the higher their profit margin. The only way American workers can compete is if they agree to work for less. Eventually, we’ll all be living in tin-roofed slums if we continue the Republican race to the bottom. You want a HUGE tax cut and economic stimulus? Consider this: Up until the Civil War, 100 PERCENT of the American economy was paid for wholly through import tariffs. Today, our expenses are too high to do that again, yet it is conceivable we could give the Middle-Class a MASSIVE tax cut as revenue is supplanted by import taxes on foreign corporations. Add to that, making it economically feasible to create jobs in the U.S. once again, as American-made products become competitive with cheap imports, rather than giving tax breaks to companies that INCENTIVIZE them to move their manufacturing someplace where the labor is cheaper. (Not to mention, raising the standard of living in the rest of the world as their employers no longer have an excuse to pay their workers pennies a day.)
- (From KOS) Issue an executive order to “end the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants.” Economists agree that the best way to stimulate the economy is to redirect federal infrastructure spending to small businesses. Ending this abuse would infuse the nation’s middle class economy with billions of dollars a month in existing federal infrastructure spending. One of the nice things about this idea is that President Obama can do it all by himself with an “Executive Order” without bargaining with obstructionists Republicans.
- LOWER the retirement age to 55. This is an incredibly counter-intuitive idea frequently suggested by Progressive Radio’s Thom Hartmann. Years of Conservative conditioning has led us to believe that we need to “raise” the retirement age “to save Social Security” and that adding all those people to the rolls would rapidly bankrupt the program. In fact, the opposite is true. As Thom points out, taking all those people out of the workforce would open up MILLIONS of new jobs, with all of those people paying into Social Security. Arguably though, this idea depends upon passing #2 above first (ending “free trade” policies that make it cheaper to hire overseas.)
- Reader “kfreed” proposed: Repealing ALL subsidies going to corporate polluters and Big Agra-business, and use that money to create jobs in a green energy market – something on the order of the WPA under Roosevelt. The private sector is sitting on nearly $2-trillion in unspent cash reserves, yet Republicans insist all these companies need is MORE money (via “tax cuts” and “deregulation”) to convince them to start spending it (per the US Chamber of Commerce’s July 2010 “Open Letter to the President, the United States Congress and the American People” – and Paul Ryan’s budget – “The Roadmap” to Nowhere.) At least five Tea Party freshman Republicans in the House collect over $8-Million dollars in Farm subsidies. Parasitic corporations engaged in extortion and exploitation don’t deserve our support.
- Also from “kfreed”: G. W. Bush’s faith-based initiatives are sucking billions (while I am unable to find current budget figures, the 2005 FBCI budget was $161 million, up nearly 40% from 2004. – Mugsy) from the public trough while redirecting our tax money into the pockets of “Christian” Reconstructionist programs and churches which produce lawyers who are taught law from a “biblical perspective” at “Universities” such as Liberty University and Oral Roberts (i.e. tea party politicians like Michele Bachmann). Our tax dollars also fund religion through abstinence-only sex ed, gay “reparative therapy” clinics, and Christian schools that teach kids to believe that climate change is a liberal hoax, that the earth is 6,000 years old, and that Adam and Eve frolicked with dinosaurs (just to name a few examples). This is waste, fraud, and abuse, and it needs to stop . 80% of the money going to school voucher programs is ending up in the hands of these so-called schools and programs run by the Dominionist “Christian” cult. We need to be pushing hard on Obama to end these tax giveaways that fund religion.
“Crooks & Liars” posted some interesting links to some job creation programs that are definitely worth inclusion in our list:
- A report by “The New Bottom Line Campaign” shows that at least 1,000,000 new jobs would quickly be created if we just forced the big banks to write down the mortgages of underwater homeowners to current market levels. I would go one further and propose converting every distressed ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage) to a FIXED loan 1.5% higher than the originally agreed upon variable rate. Not only would this allow hundreds of thousands to keep their homes, but would free up lending as banks see mortgage payments flowing in once again.
- Another C&L entry asks about all the big American mega-companies demanding “tax breaks in the name of job creation” that have actually CUT jobs in America only to INCREASE their workforce OVERSEAS. Repeal tax breaks for companies that create jobs overseas. If a company receiving tax breaks in the name of “job creation” uses that money to create jobs overseas and not here at home, not only should they not be receiving that tax cut, but I’d argue that’s fraud worthy of a hefty fine.
- (****) My September 8th op/ed explained how regulations can be used to CREATE jobs without costing the government a dime. President Obama needs to stop believing Republican BS that “Regulations cost jobs”. (Gerry Connolly D-VA11 said on Thursday, “If regulations and economic growth were inversely related, then sub-Saharan Africa would have the most productive economy on earth.” Click the link for context. You’ll never believe what prompted it.) Not only is it a total lie, but (as Connolly points out) the exact OPPOSITE can be true. You can force companies sitting on TWO-TRILLION in cash reserves to either buy new equipment and/or hire new employees that help them comply with the new regulations. 60 years ago, a top corporate tax rate of 91% was used to encourage corporations to reinvest in their own infrastructure, hire workers, raise salaries and provide benefits in order to avoid paying incomes taxes on those profits. The end result of years of Republican tax breaks for “job creators” was to give them LESS incentive to spend that money creating jobs and MORE incentive to pocket the savings. Today’s GOP will NEVER allow us to return to the tax rates of 1955, but we can still force corporations to modernize and reinvest in their companies through increased regulations on Greenhouse gas emissions, raising auto mileage standards, waste production/management and safer working conditions for their employees.
- And finally, simply let the Bush tax cuts expire. Nothing easier than “doing nothing”, and as I point out in #9 above, higher tax rates on corporations ENCOURAGES REINVESTMENT in their own companies. “Reinvestment” means “spending” and spending means “jobs”. Conservatives think that if you raise taxes on “job creators”, they won’t have the money to hire anyone new. No. That’s just stupid. Companies don’t suddenly hire someone for $50K a year in exchange for a $5,000 tax cut, to meet a demand that’s not there and already met by their current workforce. If all these tax cuts have proven anything, it’s that companies don’t base their hiring on how much cash they’ve got in the bank. If all it takes to convince a company to start hiring is more money in the bank, then why haven’t all these tax cuts created any jobs? DEMAND creates jobs. It doesn’t matter what a company’s tax rate is, if they have customers, they’ll hire people to fulfill that demand. Economics-101. In fact, a companies tax burden doesn’t have to go up one dime if they simply reinvest that money back into their business (as described in #10 above). Republicans CONSTANTLY blame “uncertainty” for why their tax cuts have failed to create any jobs. “Uncertainty” over whether their taxes will go up under President Obama. The only people creating “uncertainty” are Republicans promising a tax cut they may or may not ever get. You wanna talk “uncertainty”? Try figuring out how you’re going to feed your kid after Dad’s been unemployed for two years. The fastest/easiest way to end that “uncertainty” is to simply agree to let the Bush tax cuts expire. I mean, if “uncertainty” is what’s holding our economy back, why create more of it? It’s time to stop managing the worlds largest economy with the economic reasoning of a five year old: “Taxes bad! Cuts good!”
So that’s the list. You may have already thought of some ideas that I missed. Feel free to add them in the Comments section. Originally, I had included two others: “Re-regulating oil price speculation” and doing away with “private contractors” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every one-penny increase in the price of gas is equal to a $1 Billion tax increase on the American people, and we’re all familiar with how much Halliburton has soaked the American taxpayer for providing private contractors to do jobs once performed by U.S. troops. Last May, House Republicans tried to CUT funding for CFTC oil price regulators by 15 percent, but were stopped by Senate Democrats Friday night. And regarding Contractors, I found (after much research) that there are tangential issues of “efficiency” to consider that led the CBO to conclude (questionably IMHO) that using contractors actually costs less than using troops to do the same jobs. (The CBO’s reasoning is questionable because they did not factor in things like “no-bid” contracting.) On a case-by-case basis, I suspect you may find MANY instances where this claim of savings is not true, but the overall savings would probably not be significant, so I dropped it from the list as well.
Time to vote on your favorites (choose up to three):
Sign my petition for GREEN JOBS TOMORROW fast & cheap. Use those $4 Billion in oil subsidies to put Solar Panels on the roofs of 40,000 government buildings, or order 100,000 hybrid mail-trucks. Not only would this INSTANTLY CREATE JOBS, it would spark ENTIRE INDUSTRIES with a future, reduce our dependency on oil, reduce greenhouse emissions, and quickly pay for itself (and cut future expenses) with the energy savings. We need 5,000 signatures by December 20th.
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