America is a nation of Great Generation citizens, a lost generation of workers and a failed generation of self-centered and small-minded operators in business, government and finance who appear incapable of leading the nation.
I will suggest below a grand compromise to create jobs that is currently beyond the imagination of our small-think Democratic president or his extreme and hyper-partisan Republican opponents in Congress, but first:
The economic crisis of our generation results from a collective failure of leadership by the president, Congress and the CEOs of the largest American firms. The solution to this crisis, in an era of divided government in a nation with poor leaders, is to think big and take big ideas from both sides of the aisle, not to think small and do nothing of consequence.
The plight of jobless Americans is a national scandal and an American tragedy. Our Democratic president has given no indication for 18 months that he knew or cared about the tragedy of the jobless. The Republicans in Congress are divided between those who treat politics as a cult of ideology; others who believe their path to power is through total obstruction; and others who privately know better but are too fearful to act.
The American people are a good people, in a great nation, enduring a chronic and catastrophic crisis. They plead for action from leaders who have eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear, and minds that do not grasp the fact that voters will keep throwing them out until the bums hear the message.
The president has wasted 18 months with big talk, small think and no jobs plan. Members of Congress careen from vacations to fundraisers to super committees assigned to do what politicians were elected to do, but fail to. Dozens of CEOs pay themselves greater salaries than their companies pay taxes.
Highly profitable firms hoard some $2 trillion they refuse to spend.
Bailed-out lenders hoard more than $1 trillion they refuse to lend.
Our big-business culture places short-term profits and extravagant compensation ahead of economic patriotism or long-term shareholder value.
The president, who is not nearly the student of history he believes himself to be, should absorb the lessons of history.
Great presidents know the difference between empty public gimmicks and game-changing public policy. They demand creative ideas, not mediocrity or defeatism, from those who advise them.
Our economic problem, while not easy to solve, is easy to understand. We remain trapped in an historic deleveraging in which business, government and consumers are simultaneously cash-short or cash-hoarding. Either somebody spends money to grow the economy or the metastasizing cancer of a jobless nation will plague us indefinitely.
Given this crisis, the obvious solution — to break the gridlock in Washington and end the lost economic decade for the nation — is a genuine 50-50 compromise that combines core ideas of Republicans and Democrats:
- Democrats should embrace a one-time zero capital gains tax holiday for investments in new energy firms, high-growth companies and small business. This market-based solution will move vast sums of capital to firms that create jobs. It would begin to reverse the energy gap in which government-supported foreign firms developing new energy are surpassing capital-starved American firms that create American jobs.
- Republicans should embrace an historic infrastructure rebuild far in excess of what the president contemplates, emphasizing projects that pay for themselves through tolls and fees, including many supported by Republican governors and state and local officials. This would employ large numbers of workers quickly and benefit all American companies and communities.
- America’s giant global conglomerates that export jobs, hoard cash and avoid taxes should be given generous corporate tax cuts, and tax holidays for their trillion dollars of repatriated assets, ONLY when they repatriate jobs and equipment purchases back to America and increase their American workforce.
This grand compromise would move more than a trillion dollars into job creation. In a nation now without leaders, everyone would lead.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.