“It’s the great unanswered question of the presidential campaign: Just how can America actually create jobs? President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are ducking the specifics, tearing each other down and offering little hope to the 15 percent of Americans without enough work.
The rhetoric of the campaign and the coverage by political journalists don’t deal with the subject except in the context of the back-and-forth insults that have marked this contest.
Away from the campaign trail, in the real world, life is different and the entrepreneurial spirit exists to a great extent because workers, business people and governments work together on the complex and frustrating task of actually creating jobs. The New York Times reported Sunday how state government, using financial incentives and salesmanship, with a little help from Congress, persuaded Nissan to build cars in Tennessee. Now, the Times said, Tennessee has more than 60,000 jobs related to automobile and parts production. The state unemployment rate, once above the national average, is now slightly below it.
In June, a small city north of Los Angeles, Lancaster, with the intense effort of its development director, Vern Lawson, and the rest of the municipal government successfully persuaded a 300-employee company to move to town. After the Obama-Romney exchange, I thought again of job creation and government agencies, which do it on a much larger scale. I looked at Los Angeles Harbor, which has interested me as long as I have lived in the city.
To put together today’s job-creating projects, Los Angeles city government had to navigate a morass of local politics in which terminal companies, unions and local property owners share power. It raised money from lease payments for the terminals, state funds and the Obama administration’s anti-recession stimulus program, and is using the money to build new roads and cargo container terminals. Cindy Miscikowski, president of the Board of Harbor Commissioners, which runs the port, said it adds up to a four-year construction program costing about $365 million a year. “That’s a million dollars a day with high-paying construction jobs,” she said. Along with that will be jobs on the new docks and in the warehouse and distribution centers reached by the Alameda Corridor line.
This is an example of the worth of government spending, financed by tax revenues, giving business the tools to build and to raise employment. Although improvement is slow and painful, it’s happening around the country thanks to men and women who understand that creating jobs is a cooperative business.”
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