In yesterday’s New York Times an editorial asks the question “Where Have All the Raises Gone?”, pointing out that wages for college graduates have been stagnant since 2001 (see the chart below.) A report referred to in the NYT editorial suggests that as the information technology revolution has matured, employer demand for cognitive skills has waned and so some college graduates have had to take lower paying jobs, displacing less educated lower skilled workers in the process. This makes sense and, of course, new hiring has slowed down even more as a result of the recession. The question then becomes, what, if anything can government do to counteract and overcome this trend? According to the NYT, “what’s needed to raise pay are policies like a higher minimum wage, trade pacts that foster high labor and regulatory standards, and more support for union organizing.”
Of course there is another point of view and it is expressed very well in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by Mortimer Zuckerman, the Chairman and Editor-in-chief of U.S. News and World Report, “Fight Inequality With Better Paying Jobs”. Mr. Zuckerman declares that “income inequality isn’t so much the problem as income inadequacy. A more robust economy, stoked by growth-oriented policies from Washington, would help produce the jobs and opportunities that millions of Americans need to climb the economic ladder.” He suggests that what is needed is:
Lower corporate tax rates so that American multinational companies will bring their foreign earnings back home.
Get healthcare costs under control (Obama Care doesn’t do this).
Cut back on unnecessary regulations to encourage more business investment.
Train more skilled workers. The National Federation of Independent Businesses reports that 38% of its members have job openings they can’t fill.
Restore H1-B visa levels to the higher levels of earlier years – 195,000 per year compared to only 65,000 today. Skilled immigrants start many new businesses and this is the biggest source of new job creation.
In other words there are lots of things the federal government can do to boost the economy. As Mr. Zuckerman says, “The political system is failing us. Washington doesn’t seem to be listening as our political parties are focused more on ideological conflict than the good of the country.”
In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Mortimer Zuckerman, the Chairman of U.S. News and World Report, writes that “A Jobless Recovery is a Phony Recovery”. He points out that counting the people who want full time work and can’t get it, as well as those who have stopped looking, the real unemployment rate is really 14.3% rather than the officially reported 7.6%. Enormous fiscal (deficit spending) and monetary (quantitative easing) stimulus has been able to stimulate an average growth rate of only 2% for the past four years since the recession ended in June 2009. During these last four years the civilian workforce-participation rate has actually declined from 65.7% to 63.5% which has never happened before in an even slowly expanding “recovery” like we have at the present time.
Keynesians and Obama Administration apologists say that we need even more fiscal stimulus (we can worry about deficits and debt later); tax reform won’t help because tax rates are already low; massive new regulations (ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank financial regulations, EPA environmental regulations) are so important that they override negative economic effects; etc. At some point, the sooner the better, we need to recognize that current policies are not working and are, in fact, retarding the recovery from the recession.
Tax reform is the biggest single change which would help. Removing deductions and tax preferences, and replacing them with lower tax rates, would give a big boost to investment and entrepreneurship, and thereby be a huge stimulus to the economy. This includes eliminating the tax exemption for employer provided health insurance. Combining this reform with repeal of ObamaCare’s Employer Mandate would also lead to getting the cost of healthcare under much better control. The overall cost of healthcare, 18% of the American economy and growing, is a huge long term burden and must be turned around.
The massive complexity of Dodd-Frank is a huge burden on the financial industry. Preventing banks from becoming “too big to fail” can be accomplished by having more adequate reserve requirements along with sufficient default and liquidity insurance pools, along with otherwise minimal regulation.
Only more private investment and risk taking can make the economy grow faster and bring down the unemployment rate. The sooner our national policy makers (and the voters who elect them!) figure this out and act accordingly, the sooner that our economy will truly begin to recover from the Great Recession.