Last week Obama named GE CEO Jeff Immelt to chair a new advisory council that will generate ideas that can jump start the economy. The council is heavy with corporate executives prompting concerns that Obama–particularly given his recent WSJ editorial–is tacking rightward at a time when he needs to go leftward. And earlier today in his weekly radio/internet address he built on these themes, presumably ones he will focus on in his state of the union address.
Leading the world in innovation, opening new markets to American products–that’s how we’ll create jobs today.”
Now I don’t buy this for a minute. But let’s say he was absolutely right.
How do we go about leading the world in innovation? One way to do it–the route he will likely pursue–is to give businesses tax breaks that enable them to devote resources they would have otherwise spent on taxes on research and development. That’s one way. Another way would be to pour money into the public school system, in order to increase the skillset American students have. Similarly given the number of unemployed, he could pour money into community college systems to both train and retrained those looking for work. These public investments could take the form of brick and mortar infrastructure development–many of our public schools and community colleges are either in a state of disrepair or are not properly equipped to serve the public in the 21st Century. This would not only create a wider pool of “innovators” but also would also create literally thousands of construction jobs. But a core aspect of the free market pro-business rhetoric he employs now believes that the public as we know it shouldn’t exist. This rhetoric makes it extremely difficult for policy analysts, pundits, politicians, and the public to articulate much less consider a range of public-oriented solutions, and steers us towards a set of solutions that further concentrate wealth.