Like so many things that start with great promise, the president's much vaunted "jobs council" will end its life, not with a bang, but with a whimper. As the Associated Press reported Thursday, the council will—much like many of the nation's jobs during Barack Obama's first term in office—simply cease to exist.
"When Obama in January 2011 formed his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, unemployment was hovering above 9 percent," AP's Josh Lederman wrote "Two years president later, more than 12 million people in the U.S. are out of work. The unemployment rate has improved to 7.8 percent, but both parties agree that's still too high."
Lederman is being kind. Unemployment—which this morning ticked up to 7.9 percent—remains higher than it was when Obama took office and has consistently been higher than the 7 percent mark the White House promised it would not cross if Congress passed the so-called stimulus package taken up during the president's first months in office. Far from being encouraging, the current unemployment is symptomatic of a consistently underperforming economy that has failed to recover adequately from the last recession. The real unemployment rate (which takes into account people who have stopped looking for work altogether), many labor economists estimate, is closer to 11 percent.
It is sad but nevertheless true that President Obama, who likes to talk a lot about creating jobs, has done precious little to allow the economy to do so. His agenda of higher taxes, more regulation, and adding to the nation's already crushing debt will do little to reverse what is a very bleak picture indeed.
In truth, the presidential jobs council was always more about looking like the White House was doing something than it was about actually creating jobs—or creating an environment in which jobs would, in essence, create themselves. The president last met with the council in February of last year, suggesting he did not take it seriously even as he garnered public relations plaudits for bringing it into existence.
Where are we now? The numbers speak for themselves. The Obama recovery continues to lag even longer than the recovery from the Great Depression. "At the current pace, the ‘jobs gap' won't close until after 2025," the House Ways and Means Committee said Thursday in a release, with the number of people leaving the workforce estimated to outnumber those entering it by 237 to 1.
The Commerce Department reported earlier this week that the economy actually shrank at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the final quarter of 2012 as, oddly enough, the president was busy winning a second term. It's the first quarterly drop since 2009 and, some economists fear, it won't be the last.
The president need to get serious about the need to create jobs, and soon. Establishing infrastructure banks to put unionized workers on the public dole at arm's length and hiring more people to work for the federal government and the other schemes the administration likes to float to get the numbers up won't cut it. America needs real jobs, what the Democrats during the Reagan-Bush years like to call "good jobs at good wages" although, in the current crisis, almost any job will do.
Approving the construction of the Keystone Pipeline would put people back to work. So would actually letting companies get back in the business of energy exploration and development in the Gulf of Mexico rather than just pretending to do so. Keeping the Environmental Protection Agency from waging war on the manufacturing community by going after carbon emissions, proposing a change in the tax laws governing international businesses so that profits taxed once in the country were they were made would not be taxes again if brought back into the United States, and stopping all the talk about another tax increase would all do a lot to help put America back to work. Investors need to believe their money is safe if they put it to work. Companies need to know there are no surprises waiting for them around the corner of they start expanding and hiring once again. There's a whole list of things the president could be doing and saying if he were really serious about creating jobs. His silence on these matters, the ones that actually count, speaks volumes about what his real intentions are.