How The Private Sector Got Off Clean

August 5, 2011  |  

Untouched in the horrific debt-ceiling impasse was the private sector with little talk – if any – of what role businesses can play in offsetting the impact of a running deficit. The private sector was effectively absolved of its role in exacerbating the current economic climate due to lack of hiring. As Washington politicians wrangled and strangled over what to do about reining in a $14.3 trillion deficit that has left the globe spooked about U.S. economic direction, the issue of jobs was an afterthought.

While Capitol Hill was embroiled in a mess over the debt ceiling, little was being said about the 66,000 big company layoffs in July and what to do. On the same note, lawmakers – White House included – may have missed an opportunity to lay thick into companies that are hoarding $2 trillion worth of cash and other resources. All fingers point to lack of confidence and abundance of caution as opposed to willingness to spend on hiring. Lost in the debate was any creative thinking or a simple recipe whereby companies hiring or pledging to hire could have actually changed the debt dynamic.

After all, more hiring means more jobs. More jobs = more payroll = more tax revenue and, oh yeah, more spending. Spending leads to more profits for companies. And the economic wheel goes round and round, round and round.

Corporations in the U.S. don’t see it that way based on recent data – or maybe they do. Observers quietly whisper of the “double standard” or company caution really being part of a shrewd political strategy to insert “business friendly” interests. The possibility that in the quest for diminished government regulations, a corporate lobby is willing to sacrifice the greater job growing good. Once a new face (no racial pun or hint intended) is in the White House, the hiring spree begins and global markets can breathe a little easier that brand-obsessed, obese and SUV-driving Americans are back at their game of buying bubbles, chewing up everything from overpriced homes to the latest electronic gadgets.

Many wonder why no one on the Hill wanted to talk about that. In the ideological revolution for “smaller government” fiscal conservatives talk of lowering taxes to spur private sector hiring – but, no talk of how cash-hoarding companies won’t even do that.

In the meantime, the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high and the current White House occupant faces a history where no President gets a new term if the jobless rate is above 7%. Barring anything Rooseveltonian on his part (which he shows no stomach for doing) or a dramatic economic miracle, it’s not looking good. Congress shows no appetite for any talk about job growth, either out of exhaustion from the debt-ceiling impasse or simply because they’re more concerned about taking a needed August recess so they can go back to their districts and fundraise.

Even Congressional Black Caucus members spearheading a 90-company 10,000-hire target jobs tour are really using the initiative as a way to boost polling numbers before unexpected primary challenges or redistricting woes show up in 2012. Will there really be any hiring at these job fairs?

What’s not happening here is a slap of creative license. The biggest lift Congress can come up with is avoiding a government shutdown in the spring and averting a debt crisis of their own making in the summer. That’s it. But, when it comes to job growth, the only real way to get an economy that is three-quarters dependent on consumer spending back on track, Capitol Hill goes mum.

What should be done defies political convention and orthodox. Fundamental alterations in how employers are hiring also needs changing – from doing something about companies discriminating against the unemployed by not hiring them to singling out folks battered by bad credit. Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Steve Cohen (D-TN) have, to no avail, pushed bills against those issues, respectively.

But, a larger push that discusses how to unravel the debt and bring in revenue within the context of more hiring is missing. There should have been provisions in the so-called “Budget Control Act” that somehow forced companies (and banks fattening on rising fees) to unleash the hoarded $2 trillion on hiring.

At this point, jobless folks (especially jobless black folks) want to see that someone actually cares.

Charles D. Ellison is Chief Political Correspondent for The Philadelphia Tribune, author of the critically-acclaimed urban political thriller TANTRUM and a nationally recognized, frequently featured expert on politics.

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