James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Create jobs, don’t go green

Apr 6, 2010 19:18 UTC

As usual, Joel Kotkin nicely encapsulates the problem at hand:

Now the question is whether the president can refocus on jobs. This will take, among other things, backing off the economically ruinous climate change agenda. Even the most gullible economic development officials are beginning to realize that “green jobs” are no panacea. In fact, as evident in Spain, Germany and even Denmark, over-tough green legislation can destroy the productive capacity of the most enlightened industries. Similarly in green strongholds like California and Oregon, the mounting climate change jihad could slow and even explode the incipient recovery by imposing ever more draconian regulation on businesses that can choose to migrate to less onerous locales.

There are some hopeful signs of Obama’s repositioning. His recent moves embracing nuclear power and off-shore oil drilling, however inadequate, show that he’s at least trying to triangulate between the green purists and the unreconstructed despoilers. Some sort of moderated energy legislation–there’s no way to get the more radical House version through the Senate–would reassure businesses and the public that the president has jobs as his No. 1 priority.

COMMENT

I agree with Liberty Lover with one caveat. Private industry necessarily makes it’s decisions with some weight on long term considerations and most weight on what will sustain their enterprise in the short term.

Fossil Fuels are a finite energy source with geographical and political aspects that can be ignored only at our peril.

Like it or not, a country’s local, state, and federal governments collectively make many decisions every day. Those decisions should place more weight on long term factors than private enterprise is able to do.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive

The Obama base

Jan 27, 2010 19:46 UTC

As explained by Joel Kotkin:

Gentry liberalism combines four basic elements: faith in postindustrial “creative” financial capitalism, cultural liberalism, Gore-ite environmentalism and the backing of the nation’s arguably best-organized political force, public employee unions. Obama rose to power on the back of all these forces and, until now, has governed as their tribune.

Obama’s problems stem primarily from gentry liberalism’s class contradictions. Focused on ultra-affluent greens, the media, Wall Street and the public sector, gentry liberalism generally gives short shrift to upward mobility, the basic aspiration of the middle class.

Now that the ball is in his court, the president and his party must abandon their gentry-liberal game plan. The emphasis on bailing out Wall Street and public employees, supporting social welfare and manufacturing “green” jobs appealed to the core gentry coalition but left many voters, including lifelong Democrats, wondering what was in it for them and their families.

COMMENT

It’s not gentry liberalism. They are Marxist.

Refusing to say it doesn’t halp anybody.

Posted by proreason | Report as abusive

Why this may still be the American Century

Dec 29, 2009 18:31 UTC

The always fantastic Joel Kotkin lays out the argument:

Demographics

By 2030, all our major rivals, save India, will be declining, with ever-larger numbers of retirees and a shrinking labor force.  … By then, the U.S. will have 400 million people, which may be more than the entire EU and three times the population of our former archrival Russia.

Energy

In terms of energy resources, the U.S., combined with Canada, is the second richest region in the world after the Middle East. The country possesses vast resources of natural gas, about 90 years’ worth, as well as strong areas for wind power.

Food

America remains the world’s agricultural superpower, with the most arable land on the planet. With another 3 billion people expected on the planet by 2050, the U.S. should enjoy a continuing boom in food exports.

Military

The U.S. leads in military technology and, yes, our martial spirit remains a positive factor … Europe and Japan have taken themselves out of the military game, and it will be decades before China will be ready for a head-to-head challenge.

Innovation

There is no large country that comes close to the U.S. as an entrepreneurial hotbed (Taiwan, Israel and Hong Kong come close but are far smaller). The recent Legatum Prosperity Index showed the U.S. remains by far the largest generator of new ideas and companies on the planet.

Diversity

Over the past decade America has produced two African-American Secretaries of State and one President. America remains unique in its ability to absorb different races, religions and cultures, an increasingly critical factor in maintaining global preeminence.

COMMENT

The mantra that ethnic “diversity” is a factor in US global predominance has no basis in reality.

By 2050 at the latest, America will be majority non-white. Can anyone imagine Brazil as a superpower? Enough said.

Posted by Mega | Report as abusive

Obama, crony capitalism and blue-collar jobs

Nov 11, 2009 15:43 UTC

Joel Kotkin has a great piece on how Obama can still save his presidency. The bit on jobs is particularly good:

The key rule of Chicago politics is delivering the spoils to supporters, and Obama’s stimulus program essentially fills this prescription. The stimulus’s biggest winners are such core backers as public employees, universities and rent-seeking businesses who leverage their access to government largesse, mostly by investing in nominally “green” industries. Roughly half the jobs saved form the ranks of teachers, a highly organized core constituency for the president and a mainstay of the political machine that supports the Democratic Party.

The other winners: big investment banks and private investment funds. People forget that Obama, even running against a sitting New York senator, emerged as an early favorite among the hedge fund grandees. As The New York Times’ Andrew Sorkin put it back in April, “Mr. Obama might be struggling with the blue-collar vote in Pennsylvania, but he has nailed the hedge fund vote.”

The Chicago approach works better in a closed political system controlled by a few powerbrokers than in a massive continental economy like the U.S. Health care and education, which depend on government largesse, are surviving.

But the critical production side of the economy that generates good blue-collar jobs – like agriculture, manufacturing and construction – is getting the least from the stimulus.

These industries need more large-scale infrastructure spending, as well as more focused skills training and initiatives to free capital for politically unconnected entrepreneurial businesses. Instead, productive industries face the prospect of more regulation while capital for small businesses continues to dry up.

Those in post-industrial bastions tied to speculative capital – think Manhattan and the Hamptons – are the ones most benefiting from Obamanomics. College towns like Cambridge, Mass., Madison, Wis., Berkeley, Calif., and Palo Alto, Calif., will also prosper, becoming even richer and more self-important. It seems, then, that Obama has done best for elite graduates of Harvard and Stanford and other members of the “creative class.”

The rest of America, however, is still waiting for a real sustained recovery. Industrial and office properties remain widely abandoned not only in Detroit but Silicon Valley. The future sustainability of our economy depends mostly on what happens to those who previously staffed these facilities – those who produced actual goods and services – not just on a relative handful of people working at Google or the national laboratories. In other words, we need jobs for machinists, welders and marketers as well as scientists with Ph.D’s.

COMMENT

How can Obama save his presidency? It is the platform of the modern Democratic Party to lift up the impoverished, salute the failure, reward the takers, applaud the indecisive and elevate the self-centered to assure us more of these in the future. In giving away the treasure of the nation, they increase the line for hand-outs beyond all ability to satisfy. The downward slope increases its steepness and slip each moment. The result is to assign a willing dictator the control and management of what remains. Is this the future of America, once the greatest nation in the world for individual freedom and prosperity? The 19th century Democrat was the libertarian following Jefferson, cited in THE CHANGING FACE OF DEMOCRATS on Amazon and claysamerica.com. The 20th century Democrat follows Rousseau and Marx and condemns individual freedom, the free market and American exceptionalism to the ash heap of history, all at the hands of Obama and his cadre of communists. Khrushchev was right, that we will impose communism on ourselves, and we are doing it right now.

Is this what a U.S. third party would look like?

Aug 18, 2009 13:46 UTC

Thinker extraordinaire Joel Kotkin gives an outline:

Given this sad political picture, the best hope now is to build an alternative perspective that focuses on the basic economic issues. This would not be the media celebrated movement of moderates–Democrats-lite and Republicans-lite–who seek kumbaya through compromise. It would, instead, require a radical third tendency–neither strictly left or right–that would draw on long-term American priorities and values.

These new radicals would focus on basic issues like improving infrastructure, and primary education and bolstering the nation’s productive economy. Their inspiration would come from a long tradition of federal successes–from the Homestead Act and the WPA to the Interstate Highway and the space program. They would view the financial crisis not as an imperative for protecting the well-connected but for financial reform, decentralization and innovation.

Such an approach would address what the British author Austin Williams calls our ”poverty of ambition.” Americans historically have rejected a future constrained by entrenched hierarchies. Most, I believe, would support spending money and paying taxes, if it was spent to achieve big things that would lead to a greater, more widespread prosperity and opportunity.

Just imagine if the upward of $1 trillion spent guaranteeing Goldman Sachs and Citigroup executives giant paydays had instead gone into roads, bridges, subways, buses, port development, skills training, energy transmission lines and basic scientific research. And imagine if instead of protecting Citigroup and Bank of America, we encouraged stronger local banks and solvent financial entrepreneurs to fill the breach left behind by gross failures.

Me: I think this sort of approach would have tremendous appeal. The $800 billion stimulus plan will go down as a tremendous missed opportunity. The most important thing here is the focus on the “productive economy.” If America doesn’t have that, nothing else works.

COMMENT

The 2 party system leads to endless “compromises” where both sides get everything they want-all take, no give. A true 3rd party would need to battle the entrenched political class and that is one tough goal. It would need to include: term limits, balanced budgets, entitlement reform (elimination of current pyramid / ponzis like Social Security)smalller government, referendums, business experience for executive positions and a moratorium on “blame America” nonsense.

Posted by Pat Duggan | Report as abusive

What the Obama economy will look like in 2012

Jul 31, 2009 20:20 UTC

You know, i don’t agree with all it, but I do agree with a lot of this analysis from Joel Kotkin:

So no matter how much the conservatives complain, Obamanomics most likely will end up with results remarkably like those of Bushonomics: more consumption, less production, expanding public debt, asset inflation on Wall Street and a slowly declining middle-class standard of living. The only real difference will lie in who gets to rob the public — instead of pharmaceutical and oil companies, we get Gorite “renewable” energy traders and well-connected “green” venture capitalists.

Americans need to place a pox on both these flawed models. We need a totally new approach that focuses on key productivity-enhancing investments such as improved transportation infrastructure — new roads, bridges, ports and waterways to meet the demands of an expanded economy for a growing population. We should be looking at modern equivalents of the New Deal electrification program, the GI Bill, the Eisenhower highway and the space program.

Clearly, an infrastructure that is inadequate today will be utterly useless in 2050, when there are projected to be at least 100 million more Americans. Already, our energy-generating capacity in some parts sputters like that of a Third World country. Commodity exports, such as grains, unable to reach foreign markets because of a lack of rail cars and adequate waterways, are left to rot and feed rats.

This is not the way to prepare ourselves for ever greater competition from countries such as China, India and Brazil. Americans must demand a program that, while perhaps financially painful now, will make it possible for our progeny to enjoy a prosperous future rather than a declining one.

COMMENT

Dear James,
You have analysed Obamaeconomics in a detailed ways.
i have agreed your views by partial ways.
Entire world wants to know ,where America stands in Global economic map.
Now the time has come for America to discourage outsiders for small,unskilled jobs from third world countries.
simple logic holds good for any country,for anybody.
First, we should earn,save,spend for essential things to our family,our parents,our blood relatives and to our own country.
America!s infra structures like,new bridges,new roads,new school,college set up,small essential items to be produced locally with American citizens talents,construction of public health care sectors,encouragement to small media networks,cultivation of non-violence,away from day today,film personalities publicity gimmicks etc, will create a new awakening to Americans.
As a journalist with very wide knowledge on local and world economics ,will bring much positive outcome to economic slow down to recovery in future years.
I hope that,American planners will read your articles again and again for her country interests.
best work done by you.
Hope to get more economic lights from this network and from you,and from other editors.

  •