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Private-Sector Employment in Jobless Recoveries

I still think Obama is toast—a result of his own making, since he’s really the apotheosis of a government-hating Republican who never tries to do anything because he’s afraid it would succeed.  He’s basically Jon Huntsman, economic policy and all, with a slightly better social policy—or at least a willingness not to try to compete globally in the 21st century using employment policies that were outdated in the 19th. (Short version: you might be able, in general, to exclude 55% of your potential workforce—women and gay men—if you have the population of an India or a China. You can’t do it when you have 1/3 or less of their population; you need a market that is open to everyone, which means you need social policies to match.)

But there are way in which he is a Bad Republican (traditional definition—think Gerald Ford’s Presidency), and those, as much as anything else,are what has destroyed his re-election chances.  Not to mention U.S. employment data.

I’d like to think I’m wrong, but let’s look at the data, comparing the last three recessions: the ones with so-called “jobless recoveries.”  In the grand tradition of Mitt Romney, let’s look at job growth over the following 24 months.*  First, the Private Sector:

joblessrecoveries001Private

The first thing we notice is that The George W. Bush-Mankiw-Hubbard “Recovery” Really Massively Sucked for U.S. Private Sector Employment.** Two-thirds of those post-recession months were negative, and the negatives were more than 1/3 again worse than the gains.  Even the 24 months that follow the 1980 recession—half of which were the first 3/4 of the 1982 recession—show a net positive gain in Private Sector Employment.

But the second thing is that the Obama Administration really isn’t doing that poorly in Private Sector Employment. It’s rather similar to the George H. W. Bush Administration.***  The loss months are slightly more severe than the gain months (about 5%), but there are 2 gain-months for every loss-month.  It’s still a “jobless recovery”—as was the post-1991 era—in that producing slightly over 1,000,000 jobs in a 24 month period is falling behind the growth in available workers, but it’s not a disaster, if the criterion is the recovery of private-sector hiring.

Sadly for BarryO—again, I consider this what the tennis-playing Brad DeLong calls an “unforced error,” a direct result of the errors of his priors—there is also employment in the non-private sector.  Which both Bushes knew that, the “small government Democrat” appears not to:

joblessrecoveries002Public

On a proportionate basis, George H. W. Bush oversaw as large a post-recession expansion of Government workers as Barack H. Obama has overseen a reduction in those workers.  This is even before one considers that at least three of those six positive months—a figured dwarfed by W’s 15 months of public-sector worker increase, let alone his father’s 19 months—are due to temporary hiring of U.S. Census workers. March, April, and May of 2010 show net gains because of Federal hiring that is more than completely reversed by September.  Great “Recovery Summer,” that was!

But if we really want to be fair to Barack Obama, we would have to break this down further.  After all,while the data is national, the breakdowns are not always so:

joblessrecoveries003PublicBreakdown

Federal government employment—now including the ever-expanding Department of Homeland Security, and with a military that continues to fight (at least) three wars—has been essentially flat during the “recovery”period.  The damage has been done extensively at the State and, especially, Local levels.

Part of this is simply that the 2007-2009 recession was longer and deeper than the other two (18 months long v. 8 for each of the previous two; more than 7.5 million private-sector jobs compared to just over 1 million in 1991 and just under 2 million in 2001).  That’s a lot more time and a lot less money flowing into taxes and budget-balancing requirements.

But if I were Barack H. Obama, and if I really wanted to be re-elected, the speech I would be giving tonight wouldn’t be about extending tax credits or capital amortization credits—with or without the idiocy of budgetary offsets—but direct state aid. Billions of dollars of it.  Without offsets. The speech would run something like this:

The latest few years have been difficult for you.  Almost every state in the Union has to balance their budgets, and with record levels of unemployment and job losses, that’s not easy to do.  So they made decisions that affected you, your children, and your friends. They laid off police officers, firefighters, teachers, librarians, surveyors, road repair personnel, and trash collectors. They’ve cut back hours at the DMV, Social Security, and Employment Offices.  They’ve made it more difficult to get an appointment to get health insurance for your children, support to buy healthy food for you and your children.  Your classrooms are more crowded, your property taxes are higher, and you’re getting less for your money while you have to put in more effort.

The Federal Government doesn’t have to balance its budget, and the bond market has given us a rare opportunity to borrow money for less than it will cost us.  I plan to take full advantage of that now, so that your children will have food, your streets will be safer, your opportunities for education will be greater, and the services for which you pay will be more available.

The private sector is rebuilding and restaffing, but that will—as it has in the past, as it almost always does—take time.  But they cannot rebuild if there is no demand, and you cannot demand things if you cannot pay for them. So, along with $1T in infrastructure improvements to be made over the next 15 years, I will tomorrow send a bill to Congress to triple the total of the two previous grants-in-aid to the States that were made as part of the ARRA.

Now you have heard many people—and to my shame, I am one of them—who live in fear of deficits. They pretend that the government “has to be like a family”—a family that never takes out a mortgage, never borrows to buy a car, never needs a loan to pay for schooling or training, and never uses a credit card.  I’ve seen families like that. They live on the streets of Honolulu and New York City and Chicago and Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia, and Cincinnati, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan, and Paint Creek, Texas.  They’re impoverished.

The United States is not impoverished, and I will not allow it to become so. We will rebuild opportunity now and build our superhighways—information and otherwise—for life in the 21st and 22nd Centuries.  The bankers—grateful for the bailouts that have been heaped upon them by my predecessor and myself—are willing to loan us money for less than the cost of inflation. We would be foolish not to borrow.  Even as those of you who can are refinancing your houses, the U.S. government will—as families do and should—borrow now to make a better life for our children and their children.

We have a unique opportunity. We have massive unemployment because the states do not have the money to employ and hire workers—workers who help keep our streets and homes safe, who keep our roads in good condition, who educate our children, who find us opportunities for work and ways to keep us healthy so that we can do that work.  And the bankers are telling us, “We will give you that money for free!”  And some people are telling you that we should not take that money.

We have given the bankers enough.  Now, they are willing to Pay It Forward, to give some small portion of that money back to us for less than it will cost them to do it. I intend to take that money and use it to make a better present—and the chance for a better future—for the American family.

Yeah, I want a pony, too.

*All data following derived from FRED(R).
**Let us leave aside whether this was a feature or a bug of that Administration
***It is left as an exercise that GHWB was a one-term president.

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Links Worth Rants

Busy day on several fronts, but these should be discussed and I’ve already posted one rant this week, so a riff on the second piece would be overkill. Sort of an Open Thread, with four topics.

  1. Tyler Cowen argues that, instead of giving out stimulus monies, the government should just hire people directly. No, really:

    Let’s say seventy percent of the stimulus gets spent on labor at all, and only forty-two percent of that gets spent on unemployed labor….That’s less than thirty percent of the initial expenditure being spent on unemployed labor and that is before any other problems with the expenditures kick in. It’s hard for me to see that as a triumph of the program (NB: we are only talking about one part of ARRA here); would direct government employment have overhead costs that high?


    UPDATE: Matt Yglesias comes the same conclusion I did: that the Jones and Rothschild study advocates “a targeted make-work program for unemployed people.” And Mike Konczal does the definitive takedown of pretending the study reads as anything other than that ARRA was successful and too small.

  2. Anyone who thinks that S&P will be in business five years from now should read this piece. Not even the market is stupid enough to believe that house prices cannot decline 5%, or that the costs of payment delays and the like will not eat the “value” of these securities. That’s not unique; what has changed is that investors are saying so.
  3. Marshall Auerback suggests that Germany may be preparing to exit the Euro. My rough sketches suggest that’s a bad idea for their banks, but it might do their companies some good. As he notes, “[his] view, which was once considered borderline crazy, is now getting more serious consideration.”
  4. Everyone who claimed that Jon Huntsman is a “sensible, sane Republican” owes the rest of us a sackcloth-and-ashes level apology. Anyone who still does it is a pawn or an idiot.

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Mark Thoma Has Become a Fiery, Liberal Spirit

Mark Thoma joins Dr. Black, putting him one-up on some Liberal Bloggers Who Should Know Better.* Thoma:

1. You have to make the Republicans pay in terms of eroded public support before they will agree to cooperate at all. The president in particular has not played a long-run strategy, the Republicans have, and the results reflect this.
2. “Let’s agree that what matters isn’t how many jobs you ‘get caught trying’ to create.” Why should I agree to take as given the point being debated here? When we need jobs as bad as we do right now, making it clear the other side is standing in the way of that goal, and fighting for the policies you’d like to enact has more value than it did in the past.

3. To me, this is about leaders and followers, and the administration is not the one leading policy right now.

4. The other side is not shy about going public, and that was also true when they controlled the White House. If this advice is correct, why didn’t it hurt Republicans when they were in power?

5. Yes, jobs at election time would be best. But if the other side is pushing policies that work against that goal so that it is unlikely to be attained…making that clear to the public would hurt. [slightly edited; emphases mine]

As Yves said, can Ezra Klein should stick to being (slightly less but still) wrong about health care?

At this point, the list of Obama Administration Unforced Errors—Summers, Geithner, John Walsh, lack of nominations, etc.; see here—is so long I would be willing to swear they put a one-armed man on the tennis court.

UPDATE: Contrast the Obama Administration statements (and lack of same) with today’s Press Release from CGI America:

Today, President Bill Clinton opened CGI America, hosting a plenary session on job creation and announcing new programs that will help foster economic growth in the U.S.

Speaking to more than 700 leaders from businesses, nonprofits, and government at the opening session, President Clinton announced three “Commitments to Action” that will be implemented by CGI America participants. These commitments, presented by Kiva, Visa, Onshore Technology Services, and the AFL-CIO, will expand access to microfinance, train workers, and fund infrastructure development.

“When these commitments are fully funded and implemented, 140,000 people will receive access to job training, 1,000 information technology jobs will be created in rural America, and $3.5 million will be loaned to small businesses in the U.S.,” President Clinton said. “Initiatives like these prove that organizations and individuals around the country have the power to take action to spur economic growth.”

CGI America is the first Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting focused exclusively on the U.S. The purpose of the event is to develop new ideas for spurring economic growth and to highlight existing programs that can be replicated and scaled.

Can’t anyone in the current Administration—Tim Geithner is attending CGI America—understand that Bully Pulpits are Meant to Be Used? The last Democratic Administration did.

*I should be fair to Bernstein, but he perpetuates the horse droppings about “people want to see spending cuts and see them they will.” The unemployed innumerate vote, sometimes, and they’re not going to cheerfully vote for someone who keeps them unemployed by doing what they said they want. That’s not leadership, as David Frum (whose ex-boss knew even less about leadership than BarryO does) noted.**

**Frum’s claim that Obama is not imaginative enough is clearly bollocks, and his toughness (as distinct from his determination) should be unquestionable too. But “not determined enough” has rung true since his Senate days, and the bad Gerald Ford imitation is wearing thin even with those who were originally nostalgic.

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Thinking about Performance

My aging Subaru had a problem a while back. Leak of transmission fluid; a seal or another failing, leading to steady dripping out. And with little need to open the hood, no gauge—or even an “idiot light”—on the dashboard, it dripped for quite a while. And then some.

The first repair—call it Quizzical Effort 1—refilled the fluid, but didn’t find the leak. So we started driving it again, but were a bit more alert for signs that it was doing things such as slipping out of gear or having trouble accelerating from a stop.

We took it to another, better shop for Quizzical Effort 2 (QE2). There they found the leak itself. We spent a bit more money, but the leak is gone and the transmission fluid stays where it belongs.

But it was without fluid for quite a while, and fluids go into other parts of the system, “priming the pump,” as it were, for better operation.

Can we say that my car has made a “recovery”?

The question keeps rearing its “ugly” head as the Jobless Recovery moves forward. Even the Optimists (Mark Thoma, Brad DeLong) are hesitating in the face of the evidence*; Thoma’s graphic at the link just previous notes that the current reovery is not just Jobless, it’s still Job-Reducing, while DeLong tries to dance a line between “this time is different, just like the last one” and “we’re going to turn this into Structural Unemployment Any Day Now” while still thinking of rainbows and kittens.

The strongest evidence that the Recovery has begun is the fiat that NBER declared the recovery to have begun. The second-strongest evidence is that there is noticeable growth in the economy** since the date chosen by NBER.

The following graph appears to support NBER’s declaration. But note the yellow area.

If you want to speak of Business Cycles—I don’t; I consider RBC Theory as its proponents describe it to be the silliness idea this side of phlogiston, but there are those who do, and it’s a convenient fiction for purposes here—then surely you should speak of a full Cycle.

The return to the level of Capacity Utilization at the end of the previous recession comes not as the recession ends, but four quarters later, a year into the “recovery.”***

And that’s just the Capital side of the equation. Labor is rather more complicated.

It is as if the machine is running again, but has not received a proper tune-up, or any other (“structural”) work that needs to return it to peak performance. As John Maudlin noted last May, employment rises with income, and income tax receipts were not rising with the “head-fake” recovery—”grass shoots—of that time.

My Subaru used to get around 17-18 mpg (city). Now it’s closer to 15-16. It would require an investment of capital and labor to get it completely repaired. Being liquidity-constrained, I’m not going to make that investment until a couple of other things are cleared up—including, but not limited to, the possibility of upgrading to a model built in this century.

Similarly, capital recovery is a slow process, and incremental labor tends to follow that in productive industries. The gap in capacity at the beginning of the “recovery” took 12-13 months to be filled. Given that it took 55 months for the Employment/Population Ratio to recover after the 2001 recession (or here), it seems not at all unreasonable to expect the current recovery to take 67 or 68 months.

Which would be around January or February of 2015, just after the midterm elections and therefore nearing the end of the first Palin Administration.

It would be rude of me to note that the first “non-recession” period of the Great Depression lasted only fifty (50) months. Or that there hasn’t been a period of growth so long without tax increases since the Vietnam War.

As with my Subaru, some major investment is needed. Whether there will be the liquidity for that to happen in time is left as an exercise.

*Both, in fairness, have declared the current “recovery” “fragile” (Thoma) or filled with “unforced errors,” but persist in calling it a recovery.

**Let us sidebar that much of that growth is in the FI part of FIRE. If you have assumed that the lion’s share of the profits generated by an economy should go to those who are supposed to intermediate, you have to deal with the structure you’ve got, not one that would produce better, or even optimal, growth.

***The monthly series (MCUMFN; not graphed) reaches and passes the start of the previous recovery in July of 2010. NBER official dates the end of the recession to June of 2009, where Capacity Utilization reached its nadir of 65.2. It is perfectly reasonable to say “a recovery” began then, but a “Business Cycle” that ends with nearly 7% of usable capital (a 9.6% decline in capital terms) sitting vestigial is a poor “Cycle” indeed.

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Following the Taylor Rule would have led to President Kerry

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand released a paper by Nicolas Groshenny last month—I’m behind on planning for Chanukkah; that I got to a paper from New Zealand about U.S. monetary policy this soon is, er, probably one of the reasons why—in which he evaluates the counterfactual of following the “Taylor Rule” from 2002 to 2006.

Groshenny finds (link is PDF):

[T]his paper estimates a New Keynesian model with unemployment and performs a counterfactual experiment where monetary policy strictly follows a Taylor rule over the period 2002:Q1 – 2006:Q4. The paper finds that such a policy would have generated a sizeable increase in unemployment and resulted in an undesirably low rate of inflation. Around mid-2004, when the counterfactual deviates the most from the actual series, the model indicates that the probability of an unemployment rate greater than 8 percent would have been as high as 80 percent, while the probability of an inflation rate above 1 percent would have been close to zero.

Several obvious questions:

  1. The period in question includes Alan Greenspan’s last hurrah as Chair of the FRB. If he had followed the Taylor Rule then, would his legacy be so fondly remembered by his champions?
  2. If the Taylor Rule would have done that much damage then, why is it getting such vehement advocacy now (with only Scott Sumner—whose model has the virtue of being consistent—throwing out cautionary notes from the conservative side)?*
  3. Is the NAIRU for post-2001 U.S. U-3 closer to 8% than anyone in their right mind currently believes?
  4. Most of the period covered by the paper is when we had a, uh, relatively inexperienced crony capitalist running the U.S. Treasury Department. How much cover should that give to the FRB?

I’m certain there are other, better questions. Feel free to mention them below. And, while we’re at it, let’s see if we can answer the question of why 8% unemployment with less than a 1% inflation rate was unaccepted to the Bush-Cheney Administration but is perfectly fine with the Summers/Geithner “Rubinites“-with-Obama crowd.

*I’m still trying to figure out if Andy Harless is on Sumner’s side or playing both sides against a middle that may not exist, but I suspect he should be included in Sumner’s camp.

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Current doldrums are just jobless, sales-less recovery

NBER just made official what we all knew they would say: the Great Recession ended in June of 2009.

For those who are encouraged, note that they also do not indicate that there was a recession from March of 1933 to May of 1937, that the eighteen (18) months indicated is the longest since 1929-1933, and that eighteen months is—coincidentally—the average duration of the recessions between the World Wars. (The success of the Great Moderation is palpable.)

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Consumer confidence

Rdan here…Rebecca just emerged from the bottom of the Grand Canyon on her way to a massage somewhere in the Southwest. Hence for some reason she is not publishing much at the moment.:) This one is late to AB, but still intersting.

by Rebecca Wilder
Consumer confidence: that extremely coincident, but often cited as leading consumer spending, indicator of really just jobs growth during recovery has struck again, down near four points to 50.4 in July.

During the recovery phase of the business cycle, confidence is highly correlated with jobs growth. The chart below illustrates the recession and recovery path of consumer confidence since 1973. The 2007-2009 recovery in confidence – I mark the technical end of the recession at June 2009 but the exact month is not important- is tracking earlier “jobless recoveries”: 1990-1991 and 2001.

The problem is, we can’t afford (economically, that is) a jobless recovery this time around!

Consumers are not feeling very good these days, with good reason! I like the way Dean Baker tersely puts it:

It is incredible that economists and economic reporters still focus on consumer confidence. Consumers are actually spending at a relatively high rate. (The savings rate is well below historic levels.) The problem is that they lost $8 trillion in housing wealth. The housing wealth effect on consumption is something that economists have known about for more than 60 years. It’s too bad that they seem to have forgotten and so have the reporters who cover this issue.

The problem is not confidence. It is a lack of money. That is why consumers are not spending more and will not anytime soon regardless of how happy they are.

Rebecca: In my view, it’s (more precisely) the lack of money during the recovery of a balance sheet recession (Richard Koo of Nomura developed this idea). In order to lower household leverage (i.e., pay down debt burden) the easy way, a significant increase in nominal income is needed, wage growth. And a significant increase in wage growth only occurs when the demand for labor is rising…precipitously. Only then will workers have enough pricing power (in aggregate) to demand sufficient wage gains in order to deleverage the safe way (not through default).

Recently, economists have been testing the theory that structural unemployment is rising (Economist.com post here). In my view, focusing on structural unemployment is just a policy excuse. It gives policymakers a reason to mitigate the large(r) policy impetus that is needed. Bad idea.

Richard Koo argues that structural unemployment is not rising:

When the deficit hawks manage to remove the fiscal stimulus while the private sector is still deleveraging, the economy collapses and re-enters the deflationary spiral. That weakness, in turn, prompts another fiscal stimulus, only to see it removed again by the deficit hawks once the economy stabilises. This unfortunate cycle can go on for years if the experience of post-1990 Japan is any guide. The net result is that the economy remains in the doldrums for years, and many unemployed workers will never find jobs in what appears to be structural unemployment even though there is nothing structural about their predicament. Japan took 15 years to come out of its balance sheet recession because of this unfortunate cycle where the necessary medicine was applied only intermittently.

Rebecca: Although this may appear to be a normal jobless recovery, recoveries from which consumers have prospered in the past through debt accumulation, it’s not. Jobs growth is key to the deleveraging cycle; and with forecasts of the unemployment rate in the 8%-10% range through 2012, still 7% in 2013, the prospect of sufficient private-sector income generation looks very gloomy.

Rebecca Wilder

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The Texas Miracle, Yet Again

We keep hearing about the Texas Miracle.  It’s been mythic since “openly gay” Governor Rick Perry declared that Texas was in great shape, in no need of stimulus monies at all—after receiving enough to turn his state’s fourteen-figure budget deficit into a surplus. (UPDATE: Links added. And that final link was rather prophetic.)

So when the WSJ’s Economics Blog listed the Personal Income gains for major metropolitan areas (and some that wish they were), it came as no surprise that the great state of Texas has four areas on the list that show no decrease in Personal Income over each of the past two years.  After all, there are only 85 areas of the 367 listed by the WSJ that show non-declines in Personal Income both from 2007 to 2008 and from 2008 to 2009.

Such an accomplishment certainly could not be matched by states with Severe Crises, such as Illinois or California, could it?

ca and il

Oops.  Four for each state.  Well, at least all of those started (and ended) well below the National Average.  Surely, Texas, with Austin and Dallas and Houston will show greater growth.

tx

Oh, well.  In fact, looking at the Bottom 10—the lowest total Personal Income areas that show no loss in each of the past two years, we find:

bottom10

The bottom two and three of the bottom seven are in Texas.  So the only one of the four that actually grew from a decent start is the one that has had a major influx in the form of the growth of Fort Hood.  Let’s hear it for Private Enterprise!

But still four areas that didn’t decline (well, much; McAllen drops $1, but that’s rounding error) over the two years.  Only a few states can match that.  In addition to California and Illinois, they are:

  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Missouri, and
  • Illinois

Meanwhile, two states have more than four metropolitan areas of growth.  I fully expect to hear about the “miracle” of five areas of West Virginia:

WV

but fear there will be little about that bastion of Northeastern Liberalism, Pennsylvania and its seven areas with two straight years of Personal Income growth—including the Pittsburgh area, which is notably above the national average after trailing it in 2007.

PA

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Public Works on a Vast Scale?

I spent the last hours of last night watching the PBS “Human Experience” episode on the Civilian Conservation Corps. A few million people put to work: for long hours, living in Army barracks, with all but $5 of their pay having to be sent home every week. Gosh, sounds just right as part of FDR’s Conservative First 100 Days.

The documentary makes a couple of things clear: (1) it kept about 3,000,000 people busier than they would have been otherwise* and (2) when the time finally came to enter WW II, those three million were in better shape than they would have been, and were prime volunteers without whom results might have been very different.

Even independent of what it produced, what’s not to like? No wonder it was the most popular Depression-Era program.

Doesn’t it seem like something the new Administration might have wanted to emulate? Well, it did…

In late March of 2008, Neil Maher, guest-blogging at The Edge of the American West, was clear: even as the crisis was growing, a New and Improved CCC would prepare the U.S. for the next fifty years, even as the old one prepared it for the fifty that followed it.

Brazil has recently begun looking back to Franklin Roosevelt’s CCC to help solve that country’s economic and environmental problems…The goal of Brazil’s CCC-like program, which the Nature Conservancy helped initiate, is to plant one billion trees over the next ten years across the country’s Atlantic Forest. Rather than funding the program by increasing taxes, Brazil will rely on novel market mechanisms including the sale of sequestration vouchers on the international carbon market, obtained through the program’s reforestation efforts, as well as the collection of water use fees in the reforested regions. Similar tree-planting programs reminiscent of Franklin Roosevelt’s CCC are also now operating in China along the Yangtze River and through Wangari Maathai’s Greenbelt Movement in Kenya. Even war-torn Afghanistan has created its own “Afghan Conservation Corps.”

The United States needs to follow suit, and the upcoming election is a good place to start. Hillary Clinton openly calls for the creation of a “green economy” centered on a cap and trade system for carbon emissions that will help create five million new jobs. Barack Obama wants to develop a program that rewards those who plant trees, restore grassland, or undertake farming practices that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even John McCain, who claims fellow Republican and early conservationist Teddy Roosevelt as his hero, proposes to limit carbon emissions as president. A new and improved Civilian Conservation Corps, one which enrolls women as well as men and focuses its efforts on fighting global warming, would allow all of these candidates to turn campaign rhetoric into post-election reality.

Catching up on my blog reading today, I came across a recent Andrew Samwick post in which he reposted a link from December of 2008—just after the election—to this NYT article:

President-elect Barack Obama promised Saturday to create the largest public works construction program since the inception of the interstate highway system a half century ago as he seeks to put together a plan to resuscitate the reeling economy….

Mr. Obama’s remarks showcased his ambition to expand the definition of traditional work programs for the middle class, like infrastructure projects to repair roads and bridges, to include new-era jobs in technology and so-called green jobs that reduce energy use and global warming emissions. “We need action — and action now,” Mr. Obama said in an address broadcast Saturday morning on radio and YouTube….

It would cover a range of programs to expand broadband Internet access, to make government buildings more energy efficient, to improve information technology at hospitals and doctors’ offices, and to upgrade computers in schools.

“It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption,” Mr. Obama said. “Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online.”

Twenty months later, I can’t even find an outline of this in the policies proposed or passed.

Whither the New CCC? Whither preparation for competing with the Chinese in the mid- and late 21st century? Whither developing job skills to ensure that broadband isn’t just something Google sells to Verison? Who will be the people ready to maintain and repair solar cells?

*Let’s face it: it’s a difficult job, spent away from home and family, for basically room and board and a (very) little l’argent de poche. Not the type of job you keep if you get a letter from your spouse saying that the local Woolworth’s is paying $1.00/hour.

(cross-posted from Skippy the Bush Kangfaroo)

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