Phil-osophically Speaking: May 15, 2014


Deceptive Numbers  

The asterisk has had a nasty reputation ever since they put one next to Roger Maris’s single season home run mark, signifying he really didn’t break Babe Ruth’s record because he played in a longer season. That little bugger caused an uproar the size of Yankee Stadium. So I need to be careful when I propose that April’s relatively robust jobs numbers also come with an asterisk. There is no gainsaying that the employment news is good, with the private economy creating 273,000 jobs. But before we solemnize this moment, we must also consider that the size of the labor market is the lowest it’s been in 35 years. The workforce has shrunk by 806,000. Nor can we pay homage to Keynesian economics for the drop in unemployment to 6.3 percent, since the votaries of that school have been lamenting that jobs would not be created without another stimulus to jolt demand. But indeed they have — the American economy is full of wonders.

As I write, the Labor Department is still churning over the statistics of what has been a weather-beaten economy. Measuring the amplitude and staying power of the job recovery during its first flush of success is problematical since every month millions of people enter and leave the workforce. Since the recession, the economy has seen moments of strength, only to slump back into its customary flaccidness. I really don’t see this pattern changing very much.

To make sense of the new jobs report in light of the decline of the workforce and weaker wages, you need to factor in the relevant variables: The expiration of the government program extending benefits to the unemployed, part-time workers, the long-term unemployed, the bad winter weather and the retirement of the oldest of the baby boomers. This is why economics is often called the dismal science; there are so many variables to weigh in the balance. There is no doubt that the jobs report surprised everyone. I see the short term economic prospects as positive and the long term still relatively anemic.

This weakness results from five years of inflation at a rate of less than 2 percent. The Phillips Curve, an economic metric named after one of those long dead economists, held that rising inflation will lead to lower unemployment. A low inflation economy encourages growth and better economic decisions. That business has not invested in the U.S. economy with such low inflation points to uncertainty and even a demoralization of the business community.

Still, as a steadfast critic of Obamanomics, I want to be clear in saying that the recent month to month reports unambiguously show that the employment rate is falling and that jobs are being created. That’s a good thing. I remember Ronald Reagan saying he knew his economic program was working when his critics stopped calling it Reagonomics. True, but the economy during the 1980s was an overwhelming success even with a huge boost in defense spending. Obamanomics, despite drastic cuts in defense spending, has barely gotten off the ground, saddling the nation with the weakest recovery ever recorded after a recession.

The latest jobs report is not going to stop the critics from calling the current economy Obamanomics — not with a job growth rate at 2 percent. This Administration remains unwaveringly and emphatically anti-business. I’m a tough guy to please. Not even the explosive economic juggernaut of the 1950s impressed me, when the economy was averaging growth rates of 7 percent a year. If our tax structure had been more favorable toward investment, one could only imagine the Herculean nature of its performance.

My blueprint for getting the economy out of its doldrums is straightforward: Put a lid on domestic spending, jolt the economy with tax cuts encouraging long term business investment, eliminate corporate income tax, repeal or at least rewrite Obamacare which penalizes the 50th worker for working 30 hours, reduce the regulatory burden on businesses, provide incentives to get U.S. capital sitting overseas back home and for God’s sake, build the Keystone XL pipeline which would create thousands of jobs and won’t cost U.S. taxpayers a nickel.

It is time to uncage the captive entrepreneurial spirits. America is about freedom: Freedom to work, to strive, to succeed, to grow and, yes, even to fail and to try again.

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