Amp Up the Infrastructure
In addition to patent reform, President Obama has advocated infrastructure spending as a way to help put out-of-work laborers back into jobs. Among the industries that would see the biggest boosts from infrastructure projects, like road- and rail-building, would be construction, which has over two million fewer workers now than prior to the recession. David Shulman, senior economist for UCLA's Anderson Forecast, agrees that infrastructure spending could help create jobs, but he proposes attaching two conditions to that spending, to help speed projects along: one is what he calls "fast-tracking environmental approval." Even a "shovel-ready" project could be substantially delayed in the environmental permitting process, says Shulman, meaning delayed job creation. One other hiring accelerator he recommends is waiving the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires that contractors on federally funded contracts pay their laborers no less than the local prevailing wage.
Potential setbacks: In a divided Congress that is already waging constant battles over spending, approving additional infrastructure outlays could be next to impossible. Furthermore, while fast-tracking environmental approval and waiving prevailing wage requirements might speed projects along, these changes to existing practices could have profound broader impacts, and would certainly create strife between the government and environmental and labor advocates alike.
Invest in U.S. Energy
Given his way, says Shulman, "I would have a much more pro-energy development policy," with one immediate move involving building the proposed Keystone XL pipeline extension. The current Keystone pipeline runs from Alberta to Oklahoma and Illinois. The extension would stretch from Canada to Texas, delivering Canadian crude to more U.S. refineries. On Monday, Donohue framed the decision as a no-brainer, estimating that building the pipeline could create 250,000 jobs while reducing U.S. dependence on "unfriendly governments" abroad.
Potential setbacks: The pipeline is yet another example of balancing job needs against environmental imperatives. The project is currently in limbo as the Obama Administration considers the potential environmental implications. The pipeline rupture that sent 1,000 barrels of oil spilling into the Yellowstone River this month emphasized for lawmakers and environmental groups alike the potential dangers of constructing another pipeline.