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Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson

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12 Myths about America's Jobs Crisis

Posted: 02/ 6/2012 9:21 am

When Americans head for the polls this fall, a lot of people will be voting on just one issue: jobs. But so far, much of the political rhetoric sounds like it could be coming from one job that's pretty much obsolete - a carnival barker. It's awash with sweeping generalizations and vast oversimplification.

There's almost no talk of the enormously difficult, long-term challenges we face on jobs. "Elect (or re-elect) me, and everything will be fine," the candidates seem to say. The reality is that the Great Recession destroyed 8.4 million jobs, and technology and a competitive global economy have changed the rules on what it takes to create and keep good ones here in the United States.

In our book--Where Did the Jobs Go--and How Do We Get Them Back? (William Morrow, $16.99)--we examine some of the myths and oversimplifications voters need to watch for. Political campaigns tend to gloss over the details. We'll see the candidates in their jeans or khakis standing in front of factories shaking workers' hands. We'll hear them praise American workers and entrepreneurship. They'll express their concerns about people who've lost jobs or whose businesses have failed. But that doesn't mean they have solid ideas for addressing the problem.

We need to grasp the depth of the challenge and be open to a whole range of old and new ideas for creating jobs. And we need leaders who will be straight with us. We're deep in the hole already and fighting powerful global trends. We're not going to rev up our economy's job creation capacity in just a few years. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something - usually themselves.

So when you hear candidates say things like this, it's time to ask some tough questions.

Myth No. 1: Cutting taxes is a surefire way to create jobs
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Most Americans are deeply unhappy with our tax system, and it is true that job creation can stall when taxes are too high. But after the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, U.S. federal income taxes are already at historically low levels.

Yet between 2000 and 2010, our economy lost about as many jobs as we created. Taxes matter, and tax reform and specific kinds of tax cuts might well be helpful, but just cutting taxes, in and of itself, is not a foolproof recipe for job creation.
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