Point/counterpoint: presidential candidates and the job market

By Pitt News Staff

Why Mitt Romney is better for the job market

by Nick Stamatakis

President…Why Mitt Romney is better for the job market

by Nick Stamatakis

President Barack Obama is a very cool guy. Standing next to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, he’s the Fresh Prince to Mitt’s Urkel. Voting for him seems like the progressive, 21st-century thing to do.

At graduation, however, it’s not important which president it would be better to have a beer with. It’s important to consider which president can make finding a job easier. On this count, you may want to reconsider your vote.

Romney, for one, promises a presidency that is stimulus-free. Economists disagree on the effects of fiscal policy in a fragile economy (despite howling from American economist Paul Krugman and company, dissidents do exist), but if you believe that markets better allocate money than the government, you probably come down as anti-stimulus.

There are hundreds of anecdotal examples of this, but the most persuasive example is the current state of China. The modern model of invasive capitalism, China saw huge stimulus spending in 2009, but now teeters on the verge of calamity, with huge infrastructure projects and excess capacity funded by debt offering little likelihood of return.

The tendency of government is to be inefficient. Thus, fewer stimulus programs will, in the long run, create a more healthy economy for young graduates. More investments will be placed into productive means.

Furthermore, re-election of Obama ensures Congress will remain deadlocked, meaning important reforms of Medicare and other national programs will remain incomplete. Things that could spur real job growth — reform of the anti-innovation patent system or the FDA, for just two examples — will lay dormant.

This is partially because of very aggressive tactics by Republicans, but also because the president’s leadership style doesn’t lend itself to strong actions. After speaking eloquently on bipartisanship, he leaves the actual negotiations to congressional leaders, remaining disconnected from day-to-day Washington.

So while the president has said he reaches out, he actually creates unnecessary tension. Veteran Washington reporter Bob Woodward points to Obama’s inability to turn “personal relationships with congressional leaders into action” as a “gap” in his leadership. When across the table, confrontation with opposing viewpoints leads to a tendency to go into “look, I won here, I’m in charge” mode, not into the conciliatory negotiator his rhetoric suggests.

If anything is to be done for long-term problems such as debt, medium-term problems such as the patent system or short-term problems such as opening more lands for oil drilling (which admittedly has light job-creation potential), the president needs to be somebody capable of sitting across a table and talking to somebody who may be his mortal enemy ideologically.

Romney is probably not the ideal person for this job. Clinton or Reagan would be better. But with a history of working in business and as governor of Massachusetts, signs point to him being at least better than Obama. And to get the ball rolling slightly in the way of simplifying the tax structure and redirecting federal agencies without destructive stimulus, a Romney administration offers more hope than Obama.

Okwaisie’s rebuttal

China’s economy grew at 7.8 percent for the first half of 2012. If that is a “calamity,” I yearn to see your description of Britain’s post-austerity 2012 rate of -0.4 percent. Also, private investments fail just as much as government investments do. AOL bought Time Warner for $162 billion in 2000, and 10 years later, the deal cost shareholders billions of dollars. There are many similar examples, but government gets more bad publicity as “inefficient” for its failed investments because the money they lose is everyone’s money. President Obama is the pragmatic centrist America needs in these times, and a deadlocked Congress can be prevented by simply voting out uncompromising Republicans.

Write Nick at [email protected].

Why Barack Obama is better for the job market

by Daniel Okwaisie

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman put it best when he remarked that going back to Abraham Lincoln, America “actually had a formula for success.” In the past two decades, this formula has been steadily abandoned, and thus, the country has “gone off the rails.” Considering the economic woes the U.S. is muddling through now, it is difficult to disagree with him. The good news is that the formula still exists.

However, in the ever-confounded world of economic policy, that formula must be grounded in perspective and fine-tuned accordingly. President Barack Obama is best suited for the job market because, given the context in which American economic policy today has to be administered, his plan for America incorporates that formula.

It might seem strange that despite widespread remonstration about high unemployment, newspapers, billboards and job sites continue to fill their job advertising sections from week to week with various job openings. Why don’t people get these jobs (many of which are well-paying, too)? The biggest reason for this is that globalization has systematically eliminated jobs that involve repetition, gradually leaving behind jobs which many of the unemployed don’t have the skills to do. Higher unemployment is thus steadily becoming less of a cyclical phenomenon (as a result of recessions) and more structural, in the sense that even in good economic shape, higher unemployment might persist.

If these repetitive and relatively low-skilled jobs are not coming back like Steve Jobs once retorted, the solution here is to make it possible for people to attain better skills to participate in the new global economy. And since the underprivileged happen to be the ones most plagued by this structural predicament, this is the time for the government to invest in higher education, not cut it.

There is no reason why the United States should be engaged in a race to the bottom with developing countries. Developing countries target lower taxation rates to compensate for the inadequacy in infrastructure, and businesses who usually move to such places often find they have to incur some costs for that. Yet the heart of the Republican plan is to cut spending and investments in infrastructure in order to give tax cuts to corporations who won’t build many of such infrastructures on their own, but rather will leave when there is none. On the margins, tax cuts and credits may induce some businesses to come back, but a sustainable economy can’t be based on constant cutting.

The formula of success that Friedman was referring to is the recognition that private enterprise thrives best when public investments in people and infrastructure are strong. Because businesses won’t build roads but will leave when there are few, they don’t always give their employees resources to pursue higher training. They will prefer to leave when the workforce is inept or too costly. Taxes are an expense they love to hate. In this global economy, America should not be reduced to the battle of who can offer you the lowest tax rate for the lowest infrastructure. President Obama understands this.

Stamatakis’ Rebuttal

You point out that Obama supports more investment in higher education and infrastructure, and that this would improve the job market. I agree that better higher education and infrastructure are important. But the government is not equipped to handle these decisions; California recently approved a $68 billion high-speed passenger-rail system. Sexy infrastructure, but unlikely to be completed, and with fewer benefits than less-sexy freight-rail projects. And in higher education, more funding won’t fix problems. More innovative delivery systems like the Khan Academy and Sebastian Thrun’s artificial intelligence class will power the future. More of the same will just lock the United States into a 20th-century spending program.

Write Daniel at [email protected].