Guest Column

April 8, 2012

Political leaders lack jobs focus

There was a time in American presidential politics when creating jobs was important. In today's political environment, not so much.

I can remember back in 1972, when the unemployment rate was a whopping 5.6 percent, that both the Republicans and Democrats had party platforms calling for "full employment" and "a job for all." Both parties wanted to reach the magical "natural unemployment rate" of 2 percent.

Today, what we hear from candidates is that they have a "plan" to create jobs. Apparently, the plan will only be unveiled if they're elected. It reminds me of then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon campaigning in 1968 that he had a "plan" to end the Vietnam War. As I hefted myself onto a helicopter preparing to go on yet another air assault, I remember thinking that if Nixon has a plan to end this madness, why doesn't he just tell everyone what it is so that I can go home?

I imagine the 5.1 million Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer, the 8.1 million Americans who are working part-time for economic reasons, and the more than one million Americans who are so discouraged that they've simply given up looking for work might be having similar thoughts.

You can almost hear them thinking, "If you have a plan to end this madness, just tell us so that we can go back to work."

Want to know what I think? I don't think any of them has a real plan. What they're calling a "plan" is nothing more than an incremental approach that deals with the symptom and not the illness. Increasing technical training, giving tax incentives and targeting services toward "hard to serve" populations don't really get at the heart of the problem.

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