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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 03 luglio 2012 alle ore 12:40.


BERKELEY – The United States has just completed its third year of economic recovery, but the unemployment rate remains above 8%, and there are worrisome signs of a slowdown. So it is no surprise that jobs have become a major focus in the presidential campaign – or that the candidates have very different ideas about how to boost employment.

Last autumn, President Barack Obama proposed the American Jobs Act, a $450 billion package of fiscal measures aimed at job creation. The AJA amounted to about 3% of GDP and was designed to take effect in 2012, providing a timely employment boost and insurance for the US recovery against global headwinds. Most of its measures had enjoyed bipartisan support in the past; tax cuts comprised about 56% of the total cost; and the package was paid for in Obama’s long-term deficit reduction plan.

Several independent economists concluded that Obama’s plan would provide a significant lift to the job market in 2012-2013. Indeed, two of the nation’s most respected forecasters predicted that the AJA would add 1.3-1.9 million jobs in 2012 and more than two million jobs by the end of 2013. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also found that most of the AJA’s policies ranked high in budgetary effectiveness, measured by the number of jobs created in 2012-2013 per dollar of budgetary cost.

The AJA was filibustered by Senate Republicans, and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives likewise prevented the bill from coming to a vote. Mitt Romney, now the Republican presidential candidate, attacked the plan as mere stimulus that would throw a cup of gasoline on the embers of the recovery. Ultimately, Obama, bolstered by polls endorsing his plan, won partial passage of two AJA policies: a one-third cut in employees’ payroll taxes (he had proposed one-half), and an extension of unemployment benefits by about 60% of what he had recommended.

But Congress failed to approve a 50% cut in employers’ payroll taxes – a business tax cut that many Republicans favored in the past and that ranks high on budgetary effectiveness. Nor did Congress approve $30 billion in federal grants to states to enable them to employ about 135,000 teachers, police, and firemen, despite strong voter support. Such grants between 2009 and 2011, totaling $130 billion, helped states to maintain vital services and retain the public employees providing them.

Romney opposes more federal money for the states, arguing that it is time to cut back on government and help the American people. But teachers, firemen, and police are American people who help other American people. Government employment is falling at the fastest rate since the 1940’s, and is now at its 2006 level. If public employment had grown during the last three years at about the same rate as the population, as it did during George W. Bush’s presidency, the unemployment rate would be around 7% rather than 8.2%, owing to about 800,000 additional jobs.

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