With the unemployment rate stuck at 9.1 percent, Americans might be wondering this Labor Day why the country's political leaders have made so little progress creating jobs. Indeed, until recently, Washington has been furiously debating just about everything except specific solutions to lower the nation's unemployment rate. Now, jobs plans are seemingly everywhere: President Obama will unveil his this week, the Republicans vying to challenge him next year are rolling out plans of their own, and even the Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, and think tanks are getting in the game. What exactly can Washington do to get millions of unemployed Americans back to work? Here, six ideas:
1. Create a national infrastructure bank
"Investing in our infrastructure not only strengthens our long-term global competitiveness, but creates jobs for Americans looking for work," says Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) in The Wilmington News-Journal. Congress should set up a national infrastructure bank to jumpstart building projects by offering low-cost financing. A public-private infrastructure bank is backed by everyone from President Obama to the Chamber of Commerce, with both Republicans and Democrats on board, says Jim Abrams for the AP. But even if it passes, it will take time to set up, and thus may not have "any real impact on the jobs situation" for a year or two.
2. Approve a new, bigger stimulus
To really dent unemployment and restart the economy, says Robert Reich at The Huffington Post, we should spend "another trillion dollars over the next two years" on federal projects and lending to cash-strapped states. Yes, creating "a million temporary jobs in a federally administered, direct jobs creation program" would spark a major recovery, says Michael Winship in the Canandaigua, N.Y., Messenger Post. Forget it, says Brian Darling at the Heritage Foundation. "There's no way Congress is going to pass another Obama stimulus plan."
3. Cut back on regulation
"If Washington is truly interested in creating jobs and stimulating our economy," says Mike Bucci in Virginia's Richmond Times-Dispatch, it will scale back the 150,000 pages of federal regulations that "hamper or eliminate business' ability to create jobs in the United States." Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and "the job creators for our nation." They can't afford to hire full-time lawyers or accountants to make sure they comply with regulations. Less government rules will free businesses to spend their money on new jobs, not regulatory compliance.
4. Invest in job training
There are about four unemployed workers competing for each job, says Suzy Khimm in The Washington Post. But in certain industries — manufacturing, health care, and engineering, to name a few — "employers are actually struggling to fill jobs that are increasingly demanding higher skills." One interesting pilot program in Georgia takes people who are receiving jobless benefits and places them at companies, giving the workers on-the-job training at no cost to the employer or state, and little extra cost to the federal government.
5. Punish outsourcing
"Creating jobs isn't cheap or easy," says Elizabeth Rose in the Winona, Minn., Daily News. But we can't make any headway as long as we keep losing jobs. The government can do its part by insisting on "buy-American provisions in all government procurement contracts" and getting China to play fair. But "we need the private sector to help, too." Big businesses need to "stop shipping jobs overseas" and hoarding their cash. Americans are "some of the hardest-working people in the world," and it's time to invest in us.
6. Revamp the tax code
Let's face it: "Ours is not a tax system that encourages job growth," says Sen. Coons in The News-Journal. Congress should focus on tax policies that help small businesses grow and innovate while making sure "corporations pay their fair share." Remember, says Gail Russell Chaddock in The Christian Science Monitor, that "with the agenda still shaped by spending cuts, compromises on tax reform may be the only viable route to funding new stimulus spending."