The former vice chair of the Federal Reserve and member of the President Obama’s Deficit Commission (aka Cat Food Commission), Alice Rivlin joined a panel discussion about what should be included in the Obama’s jobs initiative.
Most of what she has suggested will not create jobs and will just put our social safety nets at further risk of being cut or completely dissolved. The idea that a one years payroll tax holiday for both employers and employees is ridiculous on its face. Not only have tax cuts not produced jobs over the last eleven years but this particular tax cut will put Social Security at even further risk. Nor will the idea that so-called “reform” of Social Security and Medicare would “grow the economy”.
At the top of the list of job-creating measures is extending the 2 percentage-point reduction in the social security payroll tax. This provides no boost to the economy, since it just keeps in place a tax cut that was already there, but if the cut is allowed to end at the start of 2012, it will be a drag on growth.
As it stands, the social security programme is being fully reimbursed for the lost tax revenue, but there is always the possibility that Republicans will use this as a basis for attacking the programme. Given President Obama’s willingness to support cuts to social security, it is understandable that this part of his jobs agenda doesn’t generate much enthusiasm.
There are also reports that President Obama may propose some sort of tax subsidy for job creation. Such a subsidy can be bad or not so bad. One of the proposals, temporarily eliminating the employer side of the payroll tax, is a great plan – if your intention is to give still more money to business and undermine social security.
There is extensive research showing that increases in the minimum wage of 15-20% have no measurable impact on employment. If raising the cost of labour by 15-20% doesn’t reduce employment, then we can’t think that reducing the cost of labour by 6.2% as a result of temporarily eliminating the payroll tax will increase employment. (Sorry, Mr President, logic can be cruel.)
Nor will the creation of an infrastructure bank:
This would allow the government to treat long-lived infrastructure investment as capital expenditures depreciated over their expected lifetimes, rather than expenditures to be paid for in full in the years the construction takes place. This is good policy and accounting (it is the same approach used by both private businesses and state governments), but it is not going to create many jobs and certainly not in the next couple of years.
The there are all those trade agreements with Panama, South Korea and Colombia, that as Baker says, “even their supporters can’t claim with a straight face that they will generate any noticeable number of jobs.”
We so screwed.