Obama's plan for renewal

Obama's plan for renewal

January 26th, 2012 in Opinion Times

The combination of key job-building measures that President Obama laid out in his State of the Union address clearly would help reverse the offshore drain of jobs, improve the economy and promote broader prosperity for families still struggling out of the recession -- if only Republicans would accept the notion that reasonable bipartisanship on corresponding legislation is in the nation's best interest.

Alas, the predictable knee-jerk reaction from the right -- even for measures they likely would embrace from one of their own -- suggests the president's State of the Union message will have to serve as a campaign position. That's too bad. Obama has long pointed in the right direction. But until the futile and harsh congressional stalemate subsides, the relentless forces that keep the nation from ratcheting down the number of unemployed -- now about 13.1 million -- will continue to spread needless pain throughout the nation. And cutting government investments in infrastructure, education and safety net programs will only compound the damage.

Obama's cornerstone proposals are perfectly sensible. Quit what amounts to undeniable tax incentives to corporations to send jobs offshore. Create incentives to bring jobs back. Build a broader network of community colleges with job training curriculum to provide the skills that reimported jobs require. And further strengthen K-12 education to ensure that future workers in the pipeline will be ready and eager to pursue higher education and sustain the creative curve that will produce future innovation, and future jobs.

That's not pie-in-the-sky rhetoric, it's common sense. The plan hasn't been applied because of the broad lobbyist-based resistance in Congress to changing the off-shore tax incentives that allow big corporations (read: campaign donors) to game the system, accumulate immense offshore profits, avoid paying a fair share of American corporate taxes, and enrich CEOs. For example, check the tax figures for General Electric.

That system has wildly inflated the wealth of super-rich CEOs, but it's also helped kill the American dream. That's why the top 1 percent of American earners (especially, the top one-tenth of 1 percent) now hold the largest share of national wealth and income in this nation in 80 years, and why wages have stagnated or lost ground to inflation for the bottom 80-to-90 percent of earners.

Of course, that also explains why congressional Republicans sat on their hands with sour faces when Obama proposed reversal of the tax dysfunction that boosts off-shore jobs.

Yet the educational piece is at least as critical as the tax incentive/infrastructure piece. The bulk of American students have fallen so far behind hungier, more ambitious students in two dozen other countries, and American leaders as a group are so complacent about it, that alarm bells need to be ringing.

The Republican counter-position to Obama's call for economic restructuring can only make things worse. Keeping economic, educational and tax inequality entrenched, and further cutting the already slashed state and local budgets, government agencies, jobs and infrastructure improvements, will only worsen the national debt, national job drain and unemployment in coming years.

There hardly could be a clearer divide on the direction the country should take this year in terms of leadership and job renewal.