Obama: Create Jobs? No, We Can't

Government can create jobs. That's why the Census has accounted for an overwhelming percentage of 2010 job growth. But it can't "create" private sector jobs any more than a dog can give birth to a kitten (to use my colleague Justin Miller's phraseology). All it can do it create the conditions -- such as a payroll tax holiday and income support -- that make private sector growth more likely.

So I'm torn on Annie Lowrey's reaction to the administration's repeated stance that it can't literally conjure jobs out of this air. Her response: yes we can!

Of course, the government is far and away the biggest employer in the United States -- staffing the military, the postal service, fire stations, schools, museums, the regulatory agencies, the FBI, the National Institutes of Health, parks and numerous other institutions.

Moreover, it is strange to hear the lead economic voice in the Obama administration make a classic small-government argument, particularly as the Obama administration touts its "recovery summer" jobs programs.

This is basically right. But given that the administration has turned away from large scale public hiring, Geithner's quote is defensible. We've been stuck at 9 to 10 percent unemployment for a long time. If Obama went around saying he could create jobs, the reasonable response would be: Well why aren't you? Are you busy? Are you heartless? Are you inept? Are you waiting for a more convenient time? Honesty is the better policy, even when it requires powerful government officials to utter the hardest two words in politics: I can't.

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile his neighbor, the patriarch of a 70-acre family farm

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in Business

Just In