Barack Obama On Jobs and Small Business

Posted on December 8, 2009


The president’s economic theme for December is: “Create Jobs And Help Small Business.”

President Barack Obama held a summit meeting on jobs with business leaders and labor leaders last week, and this morning (Tuesday) he made a pretty good television address on jobs and the economy.

The president outlined a three-point plan to encourage job creation:

  1. Help small businesses. Use the rest of the TARP funds to facilitate lending to small business. And eliminate the capital-gains tax on small business investment.
  2. Increase spending on infrastructure. Two goals here: Infrastructure spending creates lots of jobs in the short run, and improved infrastructure is needed as a foundation of the economic growth of the future.
  3. Provide incentives for consumers to retrofit their homes to save energy, AKA “cash for caulkers.”

The plan is OK, but underwhelming. It makes sense, but haven’t we been trying to encourage small business, jobs, and infrastructure all along? Haven’t we had home weatherization programs since the energy shortages in the 1970s?

Much more persuasive to me was the second half of President Obama’s speech. He offered thoughtful perspective on the larger problems associated with the economy. First of all, he reminded us that the TARP program, while unpopular, prevented the collapse of the entire financial system. (My comment: At the very least, TARP enabled Wall Street financiers to continue living in the style to which they had become accustomed.)

President Obama reminded us that the economic crisis was caused by unsustainable consumer debt and unrestrained financial speculation.

Beyond the immediate focus on jobs, small business, infrastructure and clean energy, the president outlined three major goals that will require serious attention:

  1. The U.S. needs to improve our educational system, especially in math and science, so that we can compete with the rest of the world.
  2. We need to reform financial regulation. (Congress is working on this right now.)
  3. We need to invest in basic applied research. (My comment: Show me the money.)

The president chided some people for believing that America has to choose between paying down the huge deficit, and promoting economic growth and job creation. (Could he be thinking about Republicans in Congress?)

Finally, President Obama observed, almost in passing, that America faces not only economic problems, but also “weaknesses” in our political system. Unfortunately but understandably, the president did not elaborate on the systemic weaknesses. The dysfunction in our government and politics would require another speech, at least.

The most important line in the president’s speech, in my opinion:

Are we going to learn from our past? Or are we going to repeat those same mistakes?

Coming later today from Maryland On My Mind: “Martin O’Malley on Jobs and Small Business.”

— Bernie Hayden