The White House: Always Pivoting, Pivoting, Pivoting Toward Jobs

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For a place with supposedly no understanding of business, Washington's not bad at marketing turns-of-phrase.

Legal limit to federal borrowing? That's a "debt ceiling." Enforcement mechanism for comprehensive deficit reduction? That's a "trigger." The latest hot term is the "pivot" -- as in the White House's announcement that it will "pivot" once again toward job creation.

If you're not a basketball fan like the president, you might not be as familiar with the nuances of the pivot. The official rules of the NBA define it this way:

A pivot takes place when a player who is holding the ball steps once or more than once in any direction with the same foot, while the other foot-called the pivot foot-is being kept at its point of contact with the floor.

So it's a manly swivel.*

The trouble is that if there were a plan worth pivoting toward, the White House would have swiveled that way already. The pickings are worse than slim. The White House can't push more spending through the House of Representatives. It can't cut taxes without widening the deficit. Even if the administration extends the payroll tax cut, that's just a continuation of current policy, which is barely keeping economic growth at 1% in the first six months of 2011.

The only job-creating ideas left are the free ones. When The Atlantic and McKinsey & Company cohosted a jobs forum, we uncovered a few ideas that would cost little to no money. They include:

-- Teaching Job Creation at Our Business Schools
-- Revenue-Neutral Reform of the Tax Code
-- New Regulation Providing for the White-Painting of Our Roofs
-- Increasing the Money in Circulation
-- Passing a Start-Up Visa Law That Keeps Smart Immigrants From Leaving

Some of these ideas, Congress can't do alone, or at all. Only the Federal Reserve can increase the money supply today. Only business schools can rededicate themselves to producing business leaders who aim to hire domestically. But these are the ideas we have left.

____
*And after seven swivels, I'd say you are no longer pivoting. You are spinning in place.

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

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