by John Lawrence / Will Blog for Food / December 20, 2010
The recent bill that passed Congress that extended the Bush tax cuts for two years, funded unemployment insurance and did a few other things will undoubtedly create more “economic activity.”
But will it create jobs?
That’s the 64 trillion dollar question. Economic activity is not synonymous with job creation although that’s the theory Obama is gambling his Presidency on. Economic activity is synonymous with positive GDP growth, but GDP growth has been positive since the third quarter of 2009. GDP growth has been positive for 5 straight quarters and hence by definition the US is officially not in a recession and hasn’t been for the entire year of 2010. However, there is still an official unemployment rate of about 10% and an unofficial unemployment rate of 17%. At the same time job growth has been anemic.
About a million jobs have been created in 2010 which is more jobs than were created during the entire Bush Presidency, but that isn’t even enough to cover new entrants into the work force. About 100,000 new jobs per month are required just to stay even. That’s 1.2 million jobs a year. Therefore, taking new entrants into the job force into consideration, there has actually been net negative job growth for the last 10 years including Obama’s Presidency!
Something like 8 million jobs were lost during the Great Recession. Currently, there are over 400,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance every week. The statistics are ominous but, what is worse, government officials don’t seem to have a clue as to why this is happening. There is no explanatory narrative, and their only theory is that increased economic activity will lead to job creation. Not necessarily so. What is certain is that the Obama tax cut plan will drill another trillion dollar hole in the national debt. And it will likely create jobs not in the US but in China and other Asian countries where labor is much cheaper than in the US.
It’s called labor arbitrage. When barriers to trade fall as they have with the current free trade penchant, businesses will move jobs to whatever country has the cheapest labor force and in today’s world that means China. One is hard put to purchase a product not made in China. Consequently, increased economic activity will mean that GDP will increase as consumers buy more products MADE IN CHINA. That translates into few, if any, jobs created in the US.
The Obama administration is also trying to increase exports to serve the growing consumer markets in the developing countries of the world. That would arguably create jobs in the US. Only problem is that the transnational corporations, which are eager to serve those markets, prefer to locate their production plants not in the US but in those countries next to the emerging consumer markets. That way they get the best of both worlds. They get cheap labor AND they are close to the markets they want to serve. This leaves the US at a huge disadvantage. Corporations are eager to serve the US consumer market which is 70% of US GDP, but they don’t want to locate production plants in the US because the cost of labor is too high.
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