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Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard

Posted: December 2, 2009 09:10 PM

Some Jobs Taxpayers Don't Need to Buy

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Can't buy me love
Everybody tells me so
Can't buy me love
No, no, no, no

From the 1964 Lennon/McCartney song, "Can't Buy Me Love"

Maybe you can't buy love, but you can buy a job.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt did it with the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. And the $787 billion stimulus package passed in February created jobs to relieve what is now 10.2 percent unemployment.

Both came at the cost of taxpayer dollars. Now, as labor and business leaders, economists and politicians gather Dec. 3 for President Obama's Jobs Summit, some are calling for a second stimulus. These include Nobel-Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman. He says the initial stimulus was too small and insufficiently focused on jobs.

Krugman recommends instituting a reduced version of FDR's Works Progress Administration (WPA), offering public-service employment, the kind that left solid WPA bridges, bus shelters and other monuments that serve citizens to this day across this country. At a cost of $40 billion a year for three years, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates this would create a million jobs. Krugman also endorses the EPI's recommendation of tax credits for employers who add jobs.

A second stimulus is completely reasonable at a time when there are six unemployed Americans for every job opening and when it takes six months on average for an unemployed worker to find a job, the longest since the Great Depression. But the Obama administration already has sent out signals that it doesn't want Jobs Summit solutions to worsen the federal deficit.

Fine. There are ways to create jobs that don't have to be bought. One is to enforce and strengthen trade policy.

Chicken Littles all over this country ran around screaming, "A trade war is coming! A trade war is coming!" in September when President Obama enforced trade law by imposing tariffs on Chinese tires being dumped in this country. That flood of Chinese tires had cost 5,000 American workers their jobs.

The Chicken Littles, always wrong, were mistaken about a trade war. China never engaged in one. And now, Cooper Tire has announced a $10 million expansion of its Findlay plant, creating 100 new jobs, and tire factories across the country have increased hours.

By contrast, a paper company, NewPage, filed a trade case in 2006 seeking protection against Chinese and Indonesian dumping of coated paper, the heavy kind used in brochures and annual reports. The Commerce Department found egregious dumping, but later the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) refused to impose sanctions because it decided the U.S. industry hadn't been injured.

Now, three years later, the United Steelworkers union has joined NewPage and two other paper companies in filing for another trade case regarding coated paper. Perhaps since 7,000 U.S. paper workers have lost their jobs, the ITC will see injury to the American industry.

But here's the thing: Why do American workers and industries have to suffer? Our trade laws should be strong enough to prevent that injury in the first place. And that doesn't cost a dime.

Another obvious way to create good, family-supporting jobs that don't have to be bought is to develop an industrial strategy for this country. The idea of a strategy is to design a way to rebuild manufacturing as a base of the U.S. economy.

America cannot depend on housing or high tech or financial bubbles. These false financial mechanisms have led to nothing but heartache, recession and job loss. A strong economy is based on taking raw materials, adding creativity, energy, and work to construct products - like steel and tires and glass. Those products have real value and can be sold to make real wealth. They are not risky bets on the market like credit default swaps.

We need to place our faith in our own ingenuity and industry as a country, our ability to research and develop creative new products and manufacture them here, at home. For the love of country, that's what we can buy. And should.