It's Still the Economy, Stupid

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Clinton

Fourteen million Americans remain out of work, a waste of our greatest resource. The 42nd president has more than a dozen ideas on how to attack the jobs crisis.

14 WAYS TO PUT AMERICA BACK TO WORK

Next week in Chicago, the Clinton Global Initiative will focus on America for the first time, inviting business and political leaders to make specific commitments in support of the former president's jobs blueprint, which he details below.

1. SPEED THE APPROVALS

Harry Hopkins had nowhere near the rules and regulations we have now. (In 1933, Hopkins's Civil Works Administration put 4 million to work in a month.) I don't blame the people in the White House for problems in getting shovel-ready projects off the ground; sometimes it takes three years or more for the approval process. We should try to change this: keep the full review process when there are real environmental concerns, but when there aren't, the federal government should be able to give a waiver to the states to speed up start times on construction projects. We gave states waivers to do welfare reform, so by the time I signed the bill, 43 of the 50 states had already implemented their own approaches. We need to look at that.

2. CASH FOR STARTUPS

If you start a business tomorrow, I can give you all the tax credits in the world, but since you haven't made a nickel yet, they're of no use to you. President Obama came in with a really good energy policy, including an idea to provide both a tax credit for new green jobs and for startup companies, to allow the conversion of the tax credit into its cash equivalent for every employee hired. Then last December, in the tax-cut compromise, the Republicans in Congress wouldn't agree to extend this benefit because they said, "This is a spending program, not a tax cut. We're only for tax cuts." It was a mistake. The cash incentive worked. On the day President Obama took office, the U.S. had less than 2 percent of the world market in manufacturing the high-powered batteries for hybrid or all-electric cars. On the day of the congressional elections in 2010, thanks in large part to the cash-incentive policy, we had 20 percent of global capacity, with 30 new battery plants built or under construction, 16 of them in Michigan, which had America's second-highest unemployment rate. We have to convince the Republican Congress that this is a good thing. If this incentive structure can be maintained, it's estimated that by 2015 we'll have 40 percent of the world's capacity for these batteries. We could get lots of manufacturing jobs in the same way. I could write about this until the cows come home.

3. JOBS GALORE IN ENERGY

When I was president, the economy benefited because information technology penetrated every aspect of American life. More than one quarter of our job growth and one third of our income growth came from that. Now the obvious candidate for that role today is changing the way we produce and use energy. The U.S. didn't ratify the Kyoto accords, of course, because Al Gore and I left office, and the next government wasn't for it. They were all wrong. Before the financial meltdown, the four countries that will meet their Kyoto greenhouse-gas emission targets were outperforming America with lower unemployment, more new business formation, and less income inequality.

4. COPY THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING

Just look at the Empire State Building--I can see it from my office window. Our climate-change people worked on their retrofit project. They cleared off a whole floor for a small factory to change the heating and air conditioning, put in new lighting and insulation, and cut energy-efficient glass for the windows. Johnson Controls, the energy-service company overseeing the project, guaranteed the building owners their electricity usage would go down 38 percent--a massive saving, which will enable the costs of the retrofits to be recovered through lower utility bills in less than five years. …