Normally, I start with a joke but President Obama’s “jobs plan” is one. Unveiled last Thursday and introduced to the Senate on Tuesday, the $447 billion American Jobs Act is such a desperate bid to make Obama look serious about stemming the 9.1 percent unemployment rate in the run-up to next November’s election that the White House press corps laughed at White House spokesman James Carney’s claim on Tuesday that the president isn’t campaigning.
It has to be a PR stunt, though, because it makes no sense as a plan. In the run-up to the passage of 2009’s even bigger stimulus, White House officials claimed that their $787 billion package had the potential to “save or create” 3.5 million jobs. They must think that none out of 3.5 million ain’t bad. Last spring, economist Daniel J. Wilson of the San Francisco Federal Reserve released his finding that the stimulus had created zero net jobs. (Even The Washington Post’s more generous assessment puts the number of “green jobs” created by the stimulus at one per $5.4 million spent.) The president himself admitted to The New York Times last October that there’s “no such thing” as a “shovel-ready” job — despite having promised over 400,000 of them. And in June, he repeated the same thing, telling his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness that the “shovel-ready jobs” he’d promised in spring 2009 turned out not to be “as shovel-ready” as he’d thought.
It’s no wonder that even Democrats are skittish this time around. There hasn’t been this tepid a response to such an expensive venture since Sex and the City 2’s first table reading. Democratic Senators Jim Webb and Mary Landrieu have already told Politico that tax hikes to cover the cost of the plan are off limits and Harry Reid told a town hall on Wednesday that he might not even bring the bill up for a vote in the next month.
Like the last “stimulus” plan, this one puts the impetus for change on government. Despite giving about 23,114 speeches on his jobs plan since last Thursday, Obama has yet to mention the role that the jobless have to play in their own recovery. There are people working hard to find jobs. I struggled after college too. It can be tough. But some are less proactive than Michael Moore after dinner. I know jobless people doing absolutely nothing! Some are on shows with “Celebrity” in the title. This bill does nothing to inspire those people to be part of their own solutions.
Another thing this stimulus has in common with the last one is that it doesn’t ensure that the jobs it subsidizes won’t be eliminated as soon as the subsidies expire. You’d think that the White House would be on top of that. It helped solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra get $500 million in stimulus funds in 2009 just to see it lay off 1,100 workers on August 31 and file for Chapter 11 last Tuesday. And that’s just one of the horror stories from the last stimulus.
Rather than gamble on more “green jobs,” Obama ought to focus on the unemployed that his first stimulus plan ignored: college grads living either with or off their parents, some of whom start out over $50,000 in debt. Dubbed “Boomerang” kids because of their return home after college, the members of “the Great Recession’s lost generation” aren’t even counted in the jobless rate. There could be millions of them. Look at Melissa Rivers!
For Obama, the American Jobs Act is a last-ditch effort to recover from a brutal summer. In CNN’s new poll, his disapproval rating is 55 percent, an all-time high. But if he wants to spend a fortune on a lost cause, he should bankroll Queen Latifah’s trainer — not waste billions on a rehash of the same old discredited spending practices that bombed in 2009. I’ve got a plan guaranteed to be both cheaper and more effective: voting him out of office. That’ll create one more job than the stimulus ever did and, unlike the Recovery Act then and the American Jobs Act now, it won’t cost a thing.
Dorian Davis is a former MTV HITS star turned libertarian writer. He’s been published in Business Week, NY Daily News, XY & more. He’s an NYU graduate and National Journalism Center alum. He teaches journalism at Marymount Manhattan College.