SOTU – A List Not a Vision

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
In last week’s State of the Union speech President Obama talked about jobs. It was a great speech. It was SO satisfying to see him scold the Supreme Court for enabling monopoly corporatocracy to replace democracy, scold the Republicans for obstructing every single bill, and scold Democrats for being chickens**ts and running for the hills. But in the end he presented a laundry list – a good list, but a list – instead of a vision for a new economic structure.
First, he summarized the effects of the “stimulus,”

“Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. Two hundred thousand work in construction and clean energy; 300,000 are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, first responders.”

Then the jobs list:

  • “I’m proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat.”
  • “I’m also proposing a new small business tax credit-– one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages.”
  • “let’s also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, and provide a tax incentive for all large businesses and all small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment.”
  • “put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow . … There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.”
  • “put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities…”
  • “and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs.”
  • “it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.”

On Exports – Also A List

  • “we need to export more of our goods”
  • “a new goal: We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America.”
  • “launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports”
  • “seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are”
  • “enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules”

What’s missing?
The most important jobs item missing from the President’s speech was aid to states. The problem is that the states are cutting their budgets, which means layoffs and cutbacks from maintaining their infrastructure and investing in new infrastructure. With this happening in many of the 50 states, the scale threatens to undo the positive effect of the stimulus.
But President Obama faces two problems when considering aid to the states. First, helping the states would mean even more borrowing, on top of the borrowing forced on us by the years of conservative policies. Second, many of the troubled states are in their predicament because of their own conservative anti-tax policies. California, for example, is cutting jobs because the conservative minority is able to block any revenue-raising measures, and last year was even able to force even more corporate tax cuts in exchange for letting the state pass any budget at all.
But maybe Oregon is showing other states the way out of this trap. Last week voters raised taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Oregon voters pass tax increasing measures by big margin,

Oregon voters bucked decades of anti-tax and anti-[government] sentiment Tuesday, raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to prevent further erosion of public schools and other state services.

If the people in the states rise up and start demanding that the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share, they can dig themselves out of this mess.
Buy American
Another path out of the jobs mess is to include Buy American procurement clauses in stimulus, infrastructure and jobs bills. A report by Alliance for American Manufacturing, titled, Buy America Works: Longstanding United States Policy Enhances the Job Creating Effect of Government Spending argues for a strong “Buy American” clause in the new jobs bill.

“Including domestic sourcing requirements in job creating legislation would be the most effective way to ensure taxpayer dollars are used to create and maintain jobs and manufacturing capacity to the maximum extent possible, thereby vastly improving the stimulative effect of government spending.
[. . .] Given the dire problems the economy has experienced and continues to experience, the inclusion of domestic sourcing requirements in an upcoming job creation bill is the smart thing to do.”

Reinforcing this, a recent Gallup poll finds that Americans think the “best way to address the problem of growing unemployment in the United States [is] … to keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S.”
Keep Jobs Here
Bloggers have pointed out that the job-creation tax credit doesn’t prohibit offshore outsourcing of the jobs that receive the tax credit! Come on people, this is pretty basic.
Finally, Tell The Senate: JOBS NOW!
Campaign for America’s Future is reaching out the 27 million Americans who have lost their jobs and are scrambling to get by – and the rest of us who know them and stand with them – to contact their Senators and say: Tell the Senate: We need action on jobs NOW! Click here to take action.