Does the private sector want to create jobs in the U.S.?

Commentator Robert Reich says multinational companies based in the U.S. look out for their own interests, not American workers.

Kai Ryssdal: You have to pair the economics of Apple and the iEconomy -- and the regular economy too -- with the politics of the moment. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, just as one example, was mentioned in both President Obama's State of the Union Tuesday night and the Republican response.

Commentator Robert Reich says there has to be government help for the American economy because the private sector has focused its efforts elsewhere.


Robert Reich: A defining issue in the 2012 campaign will be the relative roles of business and government in making Americans globally competitive.

But American business can't lead the way because it's increasingly global, with less and less stake in America. And its goal is profits, not better jobs.

According to the Commerce Department, U.S.-based global corporations added almost 2.5 million workers abroad over the past decade. But they cut their U.S. workforce by about 3 million.

Apple employs eight times as many workers overseas as it does in the United States. An Apple executive recently told the New York Times, "We don't have an obligation to solve America's problems."

At the same time, the National Science Foundation warns that Asia's share of global R&D spending now exceeds America's. One big reason: Over the last decade, American firms nearly doubled their R&D investment in China.

No wonder the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, dominated by corporate CEOs, is calling for lower tax rates and less regulation. These CEOs are beholden to their shareholders -- not to American workers -- and these proposals mean higher earnings per share. But they won't create better jobs.

Americans will get good jobs in the global economy only if they're productive enough to attract them. But a large and growing portion of our workforce isn't equipped to be productive. We're hobbled by deteriorating schools, unaffordable college tuitions, decaying infrastructure, and declining investment in basic R&D. All of this is putting us on a downward slope toward even lousier jobs and lower wages in the future.

Big American corporations aren't clamoring for better education and infrastructure. They want lower taxes and fewer regulations. And they have huge clout in Washington, with legions of lobbyists and boatloads of money for political campaigns.

That's the problem in a nutshell. When it comes to making Americans globally competitive, almost no one with any clout in Washington is representing Americans.


Ryssdal: Robert Reich teaches public policy at the University of California Berkeley. His most recent book is called "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future." Tell us what you think -- write to us.

About the author

Robert Reich is chancellor's professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton.

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