News / Economy

Political Differences Cloud Obama Job Proposals

President Barack Obama's speech on the U.S. economy is just the latest in a long history of government proposals to stimulate economies and put people back to work. But with the U.S. economy expanding much slower than expected, and a political climate focused on spending cuts, some analysts doubt the government can improve the nation's economic landscape. Mil Arcega reports.

With nearly 14 million Americans out of work, some question whether President Barack Obama's jobs proposals can have a significant impact on hiring.

The president said earlier this month in Detroit that the outcome depends on Congress.

"There is work to be done and there are workers ready to do it.  Labor's on board, business is on board, we just need Congress to get on board.  Let's put America back to work!," he said.

But Republican leaders voiced objections even before the president's speech.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

"There's a much simpler reason to oppose the president's economic policies that has nothing whatsoever to do with politics -- they don't work," McConnell said.

Some analysts see politics as the problem.   Vincent Reinhart is an economist at the American Enterprise Institute.

"The reason we're so inefficient right now is the political system drove us here; voters are incoherent in terms of what they want from the government for themselves and what they want for everybody else.  And until we come to, figure out some way to rationalize all that, we're not going back to the high growth rates," Reinhart said.    

Others say the nation's obsession with deficit reduction makes matters worse.  Labor economist Gary Burtless says growing the economy will require more spending, not less.

"I do think that the deficit and the rising debt of the United States represents a problem -- it's a long term problem and the solutions they have adopted, I think, are going to make that long term problem worse, because without the economy growing robustly, we won't have a manageable debt problem," Burtless said.

Many analysts say debt reduction will likely take precedence over jobs in the coming months.  A bipartisan committee is now searching for ways to lower the federal deficit by more than a trillion dollars over the next 10 years.  

With a November deadline fast approaching, Douglas Holtz-Eakin at the American Action Forum says the exercise will test America's political will. "The pressure will be on this committee not so much from a substantive point of view, but from a political point of view to prove that Washington still has some value to this country and that the legislative process still works to some extent.  That, I think, is what makes this difficult," Holtz-Eakin said.

Even if the president gets everything he wants, some estimates suggest unemployment could remain above 8 percent until after 2014. Gary Burtless says the rate might be higher next year.

"I'd love to be wrong, but I don't think I will be, and I think it's more likely to be higher a year from today than it is to be lower a year from today," Burtless said.

Analysts say continuing high unemployment could hurt the president's election chances in 2012.

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