Bush vs. Kerry on job growth

If you are like most working people in the U.S. today, your job security has never, it seems, been shakier. Never mind the huge job losses under Bush’s watch: whole careers, entire trades, have been swept away in the span of a few years. So what the presidential candidates have to say about their plans for job growth is of keen interest.

George W. Bush’s jobs plan is simple. Cut taxes for the rich on the theory that the rich will invest it in the stock or other capital markets, and this investment will stimulate growth. Of course, wealthy investors will only invest if they have reason to expect a return. Firms do not often expand capacity if it looks like their customers are getting poorer. Despite Bush’s massive tax cut for the rich, business investment has been weak ever since 2000.

It gets worse. The Bush tax cuts have already provided whatever stimulus they could have by now; they have run their course. The results are invisible in many areas of the economy. And whatever “bounce” the economy got from Bush’s tax cuts and war spending was obtained through massive deficit spending. Bush put all of it on the credit card, leaving future generations of workers to foot the bill.

So now what? When asked in the presidential debates what else he might do, Bush championed education. Of course, he did the same thing last election, passed an education bill with bipartisan support and then did not fund it.

The Bush message is: “You are going to lose your job. That’s tough. You’ve got to go back to school. I want to help you. But you will have to wait until the war on terror is over before I can find any money. I have no idea when that might be. Maybe you should consider enlisting....”

Senator John Kerry has provided a considerably more detailed plan. He proposes steps like the following:

• Cut the domestic corporate tax rate 5 percent and raise taxes on foreign corporate income so as to encourage domestic manufacturing and trade.

• Provide significant health care relief to workers whose companies cannot afford rising premiums.

• Provide a variety of incentives to encourage small and medium-size business growth, including an ambitious “New Jobs” tax credit program.

• Encourage high-tech venture capital expansion into medium-sized manufacturing.

• Provide direct subsidies to job-producing research and development on energy independence.

Kerry also has a strong emphasis on education. A few of his training proposals:

• Significantly expand the Trade Adjustment Assistance program to protect more workers dislocated by globalization.

• Create increased access to four years of college through the College Opportunity Tax Credit — up to $4,000 per student.

• Double funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

• Establish a trust fund of approximately $200 billion over 10 years to fully fund the No Child Left Behind law, with the aim of improving America’s K-12 math and science education.

And on public works:

• Establish universal broadband access.

• Fund R&D in manufacturing technologies at the defense advanced research projects agency.

It’s true that, on the surface, both candidates propose tax cuts and education as the core of their jobs program. But Kerry provides substantive details, with targeted investments that make sense. My own preference would be for even stronger public works investments in infrastructure, energy and education.

Kerry differs from Bush further in that he favors reducing the deficit, whereas Bush appears to be following Reagan’s maxim that the best way to kill the public sector is to bankrupt it.

So these are among the reasons I am voting for Kerry. Another reason is Bush’s war fever, which threatens to bury any positive movement in the economy and maybe a lot more. It’s not entirely certain that Kerry will avoid being sucked into the vortex of the Iraq occupation, itself part of the larger vortex of instability churning around nearly all oil-producing regions. But Kerry seems to have a much stronger grasp the dangers of war and realities of world politics than Bush.

I’m helping to get out the vote for Kerry this week in my West Virginia community. I hope you find time to get out and talk to your neighbors and co-workers in your community too. Make sure everyone gets to the polls!

The author can be reached at jcase@steuber.com.