For several days before President Barack Obama's "jobs speech," White House sources had been "leaking" that he would propose a jobs program costing somewhere around $300 billion. But when he gave the speech, Obama upped the ante to $450 billion.
That amounts to nearly $1,500 each for every man, woman and child in the United States - a stiff price to pay for a program that does not address the root cause of unemployment in our country.
Uncertainty among both consumers and businesses is the anchor holding our economy in place. To judge by reports of businesses sitting on large cash reserves rather than spending them to expand, it is clear the economy has built up something of a head of steam. But uncertainty about the tax and regulatory winds ahead has prompted many captains of industry - as well as consumers - to decide it is too risky to order full steam ahead right now.
Last week, in a speech to Congress, Obama unveiled his proposed "jobs program."
Some of it makes sense. The president is urging lawmakers to reduce Social Security payroll taxes paid by both workers and their employees. That would leave some of Americans' hard-earned cash in their pockets, giving them an incentive to buy more. It also would give businesses a much-needed break.
But tax relief amounts to only about $250 billion of the president's plan. The remaining $200 billion would be spent on a new "stimulus" program, giving local and state governments money for infrastructure repairs and to retain employees they might otherwise have laid off. That component would reward big cities and states that have been unwilling to discipline themselves fiscally.
Congress should reject that segment of Obama's proposal.
Again, tax relief would be helpful, but only in the short run. At some point the break proposed by the president would expire.
Regardless of how Congress responds to Obama's call, the root cause of economic malaise and unemployment will remain in place. Again, it is uncertainty over the future -made worse by Obama's oft-expressed wish to increase taxes at some point and establish a massive new regime of federal regulation.