Where will jobs and growth come from? As we enter the fifth year of the Great Recession, people all over the world are asking this question, but their political leaders are not providing any convincing answers, as has been made obvious in the U.S. presidential debate and the European Union summit this week.
The second presidential debate started with Jeremy Epstein, a 20-year old college student, pointing out that he had “little chance to get employment” and asking the two candidates for some reassurance and an explanation of how this would change. Mitt Romney offered lots of reassurance but not much explanation:
“I want you to be able to get a job. I know what it takes to get this economy going. I know what it takes to create good jobs again. I know what it takes to make sure that you have the kind of opportunity you deserve. When you graduate … in 2014, I presume I’m going to be president. I’m going to make sure you get a job. Thanks, Jeremy. Yeah, you bet.”
President Obama was more specific but hardly more convincing:
“No. 1, I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again. That means we change our tax code so we’re giving incentives to companies that are investing here in the United States. It also means we’re helping them and small businesses to export all around the world. No. 2, we’ve got to make sure that we have the best education system in the world. No. 3, we’ve got to control our own energy. We’ve got to reduce our deficit, but we’ve got to do it in a balanced way. And let’s take the money that we’ve been spending on war … to rebuild roads, bridges, schools. We do those things, not only is your future going to be bright but America’s future is going to be bright as well.”
Tinkering with taxes and investing in education, energy and roads may be good ideas, but does anyone believe such measures would resolve the deepest and most intractable unemployment problem that the U.S. and the world have faced since the 1930s?