There’s lots of applause for “bipartisanship” as Congressional leaders try to hammer out a “jobs” bill. And reportedly, negotiations are leading to the adoption of some GOP ideas, such as tax breaks for small businesses.
Certainly it’s a big improvement to move in the direction of reducing government’s burden and making employment less expensive for private companies, instead of just throwing government money to various entities in hopes of creating jobs. Yet even some of these better ideas have real pitfalls. Here’s how the Los Angeles Times describes one idea that’s gained traction:
According to a draft outline of the bill circulated by Senate Democrats, the cornerstone would be a proposal to give businesses that hire unemployed workers this year an exemption from the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax. If they keep those workers more than a year, employers would get an additional $1,000 tax credit per employee.
Three cheers for reducing the cost of hiring a worker. Yet think about what it means to limit these incentives only to businesses that hire “unemployed workers.” That means that all of the people who responded to job loss by desperately seeking employment-any job-aren’t eligible. Many people have taken jobs outside of their actual area of expertise and at much lower wages to avoid being entirely unemployed. This may become a handicap since employers will be seeking to hire those who qualify for this new government program.
Also, there’s a problem in focusing only on employers creating new jobs today. A company that fired a big chunk of its workforce last year may be rewarded because it has room to expand, while the employer who has struggled-and is still struggling–to make payroll and has made every effort not to fire workers gets no support or relief.
Targeted policies almost inevitably distort behavior and reward some, while punishing others. It would be much better if policymaker would refocus on lowering the costs associated with employing all workers. That would encourage sensible hiring and long-term economic growth.