Democrats’ poli­cies don’t match their prom­ises on jobs

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Jay Stein­metz Jay Stein­metz is CEO of Bal­ti­more-based Bar­cod­ing Inc.; he serves on the Mary­land Reg­u­la­tory Re­form Com­mis­sion and is on the board of Mary­land Busi­ness for Re­spon­sive Gov­ern­ment. His email is jay.stein­metz@bar­cod­

The Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee’s party plat­form prom­ises “to cut the red tape that holds back small busi­nesses and en­trepreneurs.” Sim­i­larly, Hil­lary Clin­ton says she will “cut reg­u­la­tions and will stream­line them for small busi­nesses.” That sounds great to em­ploy­ers in Bal­ti­more work­ing through sev­eral years of a his­tor­i­cally weak econ­omy. Un­for­tu­nately, what I am see­ing from can­di­dates is more of the same bad poli­cies that stran­gle busi­ness in red tape and taxes. As a Demo­crat my­self, we need to look at ac­tions, not words, if we are re­ally in­ter­ested in ad­dress­ing in­come in­equal­ity, in­ner-city un­em­ploy­ment and lack of pro­duc­tiv­ity that has cre­ated a “new nor­mal” of eco­nomic stag­na­tion.

Upon tak­ing of­fice, John F. Kennedy’s key ad­vis­ers urged him to at­tack un­em­ploy­ment with New Deal-type spend­ing, but the pres­i­dent chose an­other path. In­stead, Kennedy com­mit­ted to an across-the-board cut in per­sonal and cor­po­rate in­come taxes to boost eco­nomic growth and ef­fi­ciency. Clearly, he un­der­stood the link be­tween busi­ness and em­ploy­ment, as­sert­ing two years into his term that an econ­omy ham­pered by re­stric­tive tax rates will never pro­duce enough prof­its and jobs.

Kennedy un­der­stood the best way to help those at the bot­tom of the eco­nomic lad­der is to em­brace our mar­ket econ­omy. What we have now are words that make it sound like the Democrats un­der­stand the need for pri­vate sec­tor em­ploy­ment, but their ac­tions show oth­er­wise.

Many of th­ese laws and reg­u­la­tions are not just bad, they are hor­ri­ble. And they are con­ceived by peo­ple who­have never signed a pay­check, never car­ried a line of credit, and never mort­gaged their house to keep the lights on in a com­pany.

Let’s start with Hil­lary Clin­ton. Her cam­paign prom­ises to cre­ate good-pay­ing jobs, foster a man­u­fac­tur­ing re­nais­sance, pur­sue an in­no­va­tion agenda fo­cused on science and tech­nol­ogy and em­ploy young peo­ple. Yet her pro­posed poli­cies would help ce­ment the “new nor­mal” of an­nual eco­nomic growth of less than 2 per­cent.

She would man­date that busi­nesses pro­vide 12 weeks of paid fam­ily and med­i­cal leave to em­ploy­ees at 66 per­cent of cur­rent wages. Ms. Clin­ton would raise the fed­eral min­i­mum wage and sup­ports the so-called “Fight for $15” cam­paign in com­mu­ni­ties in­clud­ing Bal­ti­more. And she backs the “Pay­check Fair­ness Act” to give women the “tools they need to fight dis­crim­i­na­tion at work.”

Let’s trans­late th­ese poli­cies into their ef­fect on job-seek­ers. Paid fam­ily and med­i­cal leave adds reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ments and costs to em­ploy­ers, mean­ing they can’t af­ford to hire more work­ers. Her po­si­tion on the min­i­mum wage would re­duce hir­ing, im­pact­ing less-skilled youth in ur­ban Amer­ica the hard­est. Not only would she raise the fed­eral wage, but she is en­cour­ag­ing a patch­work of lo­cally man­dated com­pen­sa­tion lev­els. The prac­ti­cal ef­fect: more busi­nesses and jobs flee­ing con­tribut­ing to what is al­ready the largest trade deficit in the his­tory of the world. As for the Pay­check Fair­ness Act, it’s a tool that will en­cour­age law­suits, adding fur­ther pa­per­work re­quire­ments and reg­u­la­tory costs on em­ploy­ers at the ex­pense of pro­duc­tiv­ity gains.

Equally con­cern­ing for those in­ter­ested in jobs is the abysmal vot­ing his­tory of our own elected of­fi­cials. Mary­land Busi­ness for Re­spon­sive Gov­ern­ment rates Gen­eral Assem­bly mem­bers on their votes af­fect­ing busi­ness. State Sen. Cather­ine Pugh, likely to be the next mayor of Bal­ti­more, has a ca­reer rat­ing of 35 per­cent. State Sen. Jamie Raskin, likely to be the next con­gress­man from Mont­gomery County, is 20 per­cent. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, likely to be the next U.S. sen­a­tor, earned a 19 per­cent rat­ing from the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers — lower than any mem­ber of Mary­land’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion. The bot­tom line: Mary­lan­ders are poised to give pro­mo­tions to ca­reer politi­cians with poor records on cre­at­ing jobs, and res­cue for­mer Lt. Gov. An­thony Brown by send­ing him to Congress.

Where does this leave us? Democrats lost the gov­er­nor’s race two years ago be­cause Larry Ho­gan made the elec­tion about eco­nom­ics, not ide­ol­ogy. Per­haps we are con­tent ig­nor­ing that les­son and writ­ing off the gov­er­nor­ship. If we want to up­hold the Amer­i­can idea of pri­vate sec­tor job growth and re­al­ize its ben­e­fits, how­ever, the poli­cies of the Demo­cratic Party must align with its rhetoric.

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