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Time Server or Game Changer?

Obama’s Jobs Speech

by NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN

“Did he announce a 100% tax on products made outside the US, abrogation of NAFTA and CAFTA, moratorium on all immigration until unemployment drops to 4%, closing foreign military bases and cutting aid to Israel, Egypt and Pakistan? Did he say we were through with our foreign military adventures and was calling our troops back from Afghanistan and Iraq?

“Otherwise, he’s just a time-server.”

I didn’t listen as President Obama was giving his State of the Union address earlier this year.  But I did write the above lines during his speech on a live comment blog.

It was then already two years into the presidency, with very little of Bush’s blundering mended.  On the employment scene his record was singularly dismal, with alternating chest thumping and breastbeating over fractional moves down or up in the monthly jobless numbers. Six months later,  Mr. Obama is about to give another speech, this one about jobs. That he didn’t think to give a speech on jobs every month since he took over is its own commentary on his lassitude.

My questions above remain unchanged as applicable to his speech today as they did to the State of the Union address. Unfortunately, so is Obama’s thinking. If reports are right, he is going to propose a $300 billion infusion made up of tax cuts and investments as a means of shoring up employment.  If the $150 billion stimulus package of George W. Bush in early 2008, plus the $700 billion stimulus of Barack Obama did not do the job, why would this latter-day Goldilocks proposal do the trick?

When the Bush stimulus was being discussed, I suggested that it would save  a lot of trouble to all concerned if the money were directly shipped to China.  Keynesian formulas worked when the artificial inflation of demand generated a cycle of production resulting in job creation.  In current day America the situation is entirely different.  When everything you buy is made abrad, the ‘demand’ generated is actually a demand for foreign goods, resulting in the sustenance or creation of jobs overseas, not locally.  Infusing money into the system in its present condition is like pouring a fresh bucket full of water into a sieve hoping that this time somehow it will remain there.

A sizable tax on foreign made goods is the obvious first step towards plugging this leak.  The fear that such a step would saddle an already beleaguered populace with a huge and immediate price increase is justified.  The way around this is to announce a one-year grace period after which such a tax would take effect, allowing manufacturing to be phased back into the United States.

If the jobs crisis and the current recession are truly the most serious in a half-century, then it makes no sense to be offering jobs in America to people from other countries.   As such, Obama should impose a moratorium on all immigration until the unemployment rate falls below a certain level.

Similarly, faced with trillions of dollars in debt and deficit, it makes no sense to be handing out foreign aid. Particularly egregious is military aid and the maintenance of military bases in hundreds of locations across the globe.

NAFTA and CAFTA have proven every criticism that was leveled against free trade agreements.  Ross Perot’s ‘giant sucking sound of jobs leaving the United States’ seems more prescient by the hour.  Mr. Obama campaigned making noises about renegotiating NAFTA and CAFTA.  The time has come to scrap them.  All this talk of renegotiation to impose safety and environmental standards on factories and other countries is pure pap; when we are unable to do so even within the United States.

If Obama has the boldness to say these things, he will touch within the heartland a chord  that is yearning to be struck.  I have never thought that Obama is a believer in anything but his own advancement.  In this case, the country’s good and his own political future call for the same things.  I hope he will surprise long-standing critics like me in his speech tonight.

Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living on the West Coast.  He can be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.