I wrote back in January about how more private sector jobs had been created in 2010 than in Bush's entire 8 years in office. I think this was a significant accomplishment. But there were and are a number of things hindering continued growth, some more complicated than others. But knowing how American voters vote (i.e. with the economy), Obama's got to find a way to address everything he can to get his job groove back and get re-elected in 2012.
Environmental Regulations are Good for the Economy & Jobs
First things first, environmental regulations create jobs. Of course, the Tea Party won't tell you this, as its whole (stated) agenda is to limit government efforts to clean up industry.
Numerous macro-scale and micro-sale studies have shown that environmental regulations over the last 10+ years have spurred great economic growth and created numerous jobs. And why wouldn't they? They make industry develop cleaner technologies (which creates jobs). They make industry do more to take care of the environment we all rely on (which creates jobs). A report by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) found, last year, that clean air and clean water regulations cost the U.S. about $26 to $29 billion from 1999-2009, but their benefits ranged from $82 to $533 billion.
Furthermore, if you think about the thousands and thousands of endangered plants and animals and maintaining healthy biodiversity in the world, it takes people to monitor these endangered species and ensure that they survive.
Larger, Macro-scale Job Issues
Next, it's worth pointing out that we're facing job trends far beyond the realm of the Obama administration, and have been for a long time. As Fareed Zakaria of the Chicago Times nicely summarizes,
... for 20 years, America has had huge difficulties creating jobs. After every recession since the Second World War, once gross domestic product recovered to pre-recession levels, employment also returned to pre-recession levels within about six months.
Until 1990. In the recession that began in 1990, it took 15 months for jobs to come back after the gross domestic product had recovered. In the recession of 2001, it took 39 months for jobs to come back.
And now? Since the start of this year, American GDP has returned to its pre-crisis levels — but with 6.8 million fewer workers. At the current rate of job creation, it will take 60 months — five years! — before employment returns to pre-recession levels.
Wow, right? But that's not all. A lot of our previous job growth was in government and healthcare, which can't keep growing at the rates they were.
While the causes for these long-term trends are not certain, two big factors are widely considered to be a large factor:
1. the tremendous growth of IT over the past couple decades has reduced the need for human employees in many businesses and sectors;
2. globalization and relaxing of trade regulations has made it very easy and financially logical for U.S. businesses to relocate many of their jobs overseas to countries where they can pay much less for the work.
How could Obama tackle such phenomena? That's a hard question.
The Tea Party
I think it's clear to anyone who has looked into the matter at all that two of our best options for creating good, long-term jobs in the U.S. are by 1. making the U.S. a clean energy research, development, and manufacturing center and 2. investing in large, long-term infrastructure projects (which are sorely needed anyway).
These are probably two of our best hopes for job creation. Cutting taxes for large businesses and the richest of the rich is not going to help. They are already raking in record-breaking profits. If they wanted to spend more money and create jobs in the process, they could now. They're not.
While Obama has had some success in creating jobs through clean energy investment and environmental regulations, it has been a central goal of the Tea-Party-led Republican party from day one of his presidency (or before that) to make sure he does not succeed, to make Obama a one-term president. That does seem to override it's supposed interest in creating U.S. jobs and it has held numerous job-creation policies of the Obama administration hostage or trimmed them down so much that the were less than effective.
The fact that making Obama a failure is in line with letting industry pollute at an unprecedented rate makes it that much easier for the Tea Party to block Obama's best hopes for economic success. Global citizens, Tea Party leaders are not. Solar and wind power pioneers, Tea Party leaders are not. U.S. job creators, Tea Party leaders are not. Protecters of the wealthiest of the wealthy, Tea Party leaders seem to be. And, for now, Obama can't get much done with them controlling so much of Congress.
But, if he doesn't find a way to have more influence, exert more power, he could be out of a job in 2012 as well. Peter Nicholas of the LATimes reports:
Pollster Stanley B. Greenberg, who polled for Clinton's White House, said voters had little patience for political leaders who limited policy proposals to what the opposition would support. "White House officials can "get trapped in 'what can get through Congress' and the constraints of that debate," Greenberg said, recalling similar arguments in the Clinton years. "Voters want you to break out of that" and answer the question, "What are you battling for?" he said.
Image Credit: skdevitt via flickr/CC license