The president’s jobs bill is a non starter, a desperate attempt to do something by doubling down on failed policies.
Point one– He offers tax breaks to workers by extending the reduction in FICA taxes, and making up the deficit with higher taxes to the general fund. He promotes incentives to get employers to hire the chronically unemployed and to raise wages, yet plans to fund this effort by raising taxes on the same employers.
Point two– While he demagogues about the millionaires and billionaires, the truth is that there is not enough of them to fund his programs and thus he has to define ‘rich’ down to include the small business people which he cherishes in rhetoric but clearly knows nothing about.
Point three– Businesses do not create long term jobs with short term incentives. After the ‘tax breaks’ wear off, the business is left with the full fare for the new jobs. Often creating such jobs requires investment in new equipment and those pieces of machinery still cost after the incentives have expired.
Point four– The bureaucracy required to utilize these tax credits, and the conditions are so onerous that few of the small business will be able to use them. If you are only able to hire a few workers it just isn’t worthwhile to ramp up and learn how to comply with an incentive that will only last a few years. Like most other regulations it is an advantage to larger companies with the infrastructure and the mass to justify the expense of compliance.
Point five– By giving incentives to hire the chronically unemployed we are creating a perverse incentive to penalize the workers who have NOT relied on the largesse of the extended unemployment benefits. If I have a choice between two workers and one has been unemployed for a month and the other has been unemployed for a year, I will lean more toward the one who has not been out of the work force for so long. I will question the work ethic of the worker who has managed not to work for a year. The advantage of the proposed tax break will not offset the natural incentive to hire a worker with a better motivation. This may seem unfair, but trust me- this is how most small business employers will think.
At a recent business conference owners and employers from several different small businesses told similar tales. I could sum it up with two observations: Generous unemployment benefits have made it hard to hire low level jobs such as dishwashers and busboys, and the uncertainty of pending regulations and tax increases has stifled business incentives to expand. For the amateur economists in the room (and there were several professional economists there as well) it seems obvious that if you create incentives such as generous unemployment benefits not to work, and you also create incentives not to hire (Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, NLRB, higher taxes pending) then you should not be surprised if unemployment remains high.