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Kickstarting jobs tougher than you think

Mitchell Hartman Jun 13, 2011
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Kickstarting jobs tougher than you think

Mitchell Hartman Jun 13, 2011
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Kai Ryssdal: On the theory, perhaps, that clean-tech jobs are only going to get the U.S. so far, no less a voice than the president’s former chief economic advisor Larry Summers is calling for more stimulus. Another $100 billion or so for infrastructure, more tax breaks and more federal aid to cities and states.

We asked Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman to find out whether that might work.


Mitchell Hartman: If the economy were a basketball team, it’d need to pull a Mavs-type streak of three-point baskets. In economic terms, that’d be around 300,000 new jobs every month. So far this year, we haven’t hit that.

So let’s look at some game plans. How about a lower payroll tax on employers to encourage them to hire?

James Galbraith: I think it’s an exercise in futility.

That’s liberal economist James Galbraith at the University of Texas.

Galbraith: You can give a few tax incentives, but they aren’t going to offset the basic caution that business has, when faced with the fact that it doesn’t think its markets are going to grow very quickly.

But what if you could boost spending by consumers or businesses? Galbraith says banks are too scared to lend and consumers are sunk in debt.

So what about government? A few hundred billion for new schools and roads? It’s not unthinkable, even to conservative economist Bruce Bartlett, who worked in the Reagan administration.

Bruce Bartlett: Increased infrastructure spending by government would be highly beneficial. The problem there is the long lag times.

You need to hire architects and engineers just to get started. Plus, putting more workers on the government payroll, or cutting taxes so employers can add to their payrolls — well, it all adds to the deficit. Who’ll vote for that?

Bartlett: As hard as it is technically to come up with something that might work, finding something that would work politically is, I think, quite impossible at this point.

I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

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