Offering a blast of common sense, Charles Lane suggests that we do three things to promote job growth: (1) end sugar protectionism and price supports (“In 2006, the Commerce Department estimated that the sugar program cost three confectionery manufacturing jobs for each job it saved in sugar growing and harvesting”); (2) repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federal contracts to pay the “prevailing” (i.e., union) wage, which now covers roughly a third of public construction spending, at an added cost to tax payers of $8.6B; and (3) reduce the minimum wage. He chides both the president and Republicans for failing to mention any of these in their list of job-creating ideas: “None of these measures alone, or even all three together, would eliminate unemployment. But they might significantly decrease it at a time when every job counts.”
Of course there are powerful special interests defending each of these, especially organized labor, which “argues for Davis-Bacon and the minimum wage with rhetoric about fairness and workers’ rights, despite economic evidence to the contrary.” The White House and Congress are not merely resistant to good ideas for improving the job outlook. They also want to make it worse. Cap-and-trade, card check, and ObamaCare all impose new costs, taxes, and mandates on business. Just as surely as Davis Bacon increases the cost of labor, new mandates to pay for super-duper health insurance for all but a fraction of workers will do so as well. If the minimum wage “prices low-skilled workers out of entry-level jobs,” ObamaCare will price workers at all levels out of jobs. And Midwestern senators have already figured out the job-killing implications of cap-and-trade.
It remains a wonder that politicians don’t seem to connect the dots between their policies and the impact on employment. Or maybe they do and simply don’t care. But let’s be clear: the jobs picture is bleak, and both Congress and the White House should jettison existing barriers to employment and junk agenda items that will make things worse if, as Lane says, “they’re really serious about putting America back to work.”