Pete Sepp is executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union.
Starbucks is selling more than coffee and snacks this month; they're selling the idea of job creation.
Partnering with the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), a consortium of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), and the "cause marketing" outfit Good/Corps, all 7,000 Starbucks stores are fundraising for the OFN's Create Jobs for USA fund. For a $5 donation, patrons provide "much-needed capital to a variety of community businesses" and receive in return a red, white, and blue wristband.
Although they do help to put private dollars to work where they're badly needed, the consortium also received money through a Treasury fund of almost $247 million in Fiscal Year 2010—and with it, apparently, a share of controversy over financial controls. (For a decent overview, see the bottom of page 405 in Sen. Tom Coburn's mammoth "Back in Black" report.)
In any case, the Starbucks campaign is likely to have strong appeal, precisely because it taps into many people's sense of urgency to get America back to work. Yet there are other "marketing" efforts of sorts going on, not across the nation but in its capital. One of these will be in full view next Monday as President Obama lays out his 2013 budget. Though some might say the White House is attempting to project its own vision of America's so-called "second half," words without leadership won't help the nation reach any job-creation goalposts.
If President Obama and his allies in Congress propose more of the same—tax hikes on oil and gas companies, handouts for "green jobs" with a slim track record of job creation, and incomplete tax reform as they've done in years past— we will fail. If they put politics above turn-key job generators like the Keystone XL pipeline—we will fail.
Yet some Washington politicians continue to push short-sighted solutions that squeeze job-producing industries and stifle long-term growth. For instance, a new amendment in the Senate Finance Committee by Sen. Robert Menendez (see page 33) would impose over $43 billion in tax hikes on the oil and natural gas industry to close funding "gaps" for highways and mass transit in the Senate's surface transportation bill. Much of the revenue would come from taking away tax provisions that numerous other sectors use too.
This amendment mimics the very same language we've seen from President Obama's past annual budgets. And it singles out for punishment the very industry—oil and natural gas—that is creating vast numbers of employment opportunities, even during this tough economy. If we want a fresh, winning start for our "second half," maybe rewriting the policy playbook that failed to serve us well in the "first half" is a good idea.