Even if President Obama’s jobs forum wasn’t either a complete waste of time or a public relations gimmick, there is apparently little near-term relief on tap for the unemployed. I haven’t found a lot of coverage, suggesting the mainstream media wasn’t much impressed either. And another dismal jobs report should be out in a few hours.
In the meantime, Goldman Sachs is apparently forecasting that unemployment will peak at 10.75 percent in 2011. The National Federation of Independent Business, which apparently was not invited to the forum, claims that “a plurality of small business owners today considers the lack of demand (poor sales) as their single most important problem. Over eight times as many cite poor sales as finance and interest rates. While loans to small business are down, it is not clear what portion of the decline is a supply issue and what portion is a demand issue.” But the New York Times‘ Robb Mandelbaum emphasizes credit availability for small business. The credit issue is not new; administration officials were complaining about it back in October. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ruled out direct loans; he wants to tweak Small Business Administration programs, perhaps with leftover bailout money. An economist suggested requiring banks “to make a certain percentage of small-business loans or otherwise show how they’re creating jobs with the loans they make.” Then there was talk about taxes to encourage hiring.
“Called ‘cash for caulkers,’ [another idea] would enlist contractors and home-improvement companies like Home Depot — whose chief executive was on the panel — to advertise the benefits, much as car dealers did for the clunkers trade-ins this year.” Still other ideas involve infrastructure, emphasizing “clean transportation,” and “clean energy.”
None of this coverage conveys a sense that any of these ideas are well-developed, that any of them are anywhere near to implementation. So all this really amounts to is Obama expecting business to pick up the slack on hiring when it clearly cannot. I see no mention of bailing out state and local governments which have been forced by declining revenues to reduce workforces and cut spending.
Obama does a good job of sounding sympathetic:
“Given the magnitude of the economic turmoil that we’ve experienced, employers are reluctant to hire,” Obama said. “Meanwhile, millions of Americans — our friends, our neighbors, our family members — are desperately searching for jobs. This is one of the great challenges that remains in our economy, a challenge that my administration is absolutely determined to meet.”
But when it comes to actually doing something, the president is falling far short.