Read Paul's bio and previous columns
December 8, 2008
Barack Obama Cannot
‘Create’ a Job
In a much-publicized video on Saturday, Barack Obama
declared: “We will create millions of jobs by making the single largest
new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the
federal highway system in the 1950s.”
Obama’s claim, by definition, is false. Obama will not
“create millions of jobs” or, as he also asserted, “put people back to
work” by upgrading federal buildings and investing in national
infrastructure. It is economically impossible.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the word
“create” as follows: “to bring into existence,” or “to make or bring
into existence something new.” Obama cannot possibly bring into
existence a new net job.
Let us establish up front that essential and effective
infrastructure is economically beneficial. Even though it incurs
building and maintenance costs, such infrastructure allows for cheaper
transportation and more efficient economic activity, and thus no
reasonable person can possibly stand against it.
But when it comes to government funding of infrastructure
projects designed for the sake of “creating” jobs, it is a completely
different story. When the infrastructure project is neither needed nor
necessary in its own right, it hurts the economy and destroys private
sector jobs without providing compensatory benefits.
Unfortunately, this is the type of infrastructure projects
that Obama proposed on Saturday. He specifically framed the projects in
the context of “creating” jobs, and even wrote a rule called “use it or
lose it,” which he explained as follows: “If a state doesn’t act quickly
to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the
In other words, it is irrelevant to Obama whether the
infrastructure is necessary to local communities. If a state isn’t in
genuine need of, say, a tunnel, Obama would still want the state to use
taxpayer money to build a tunnel just to put people to work, even if it
runs close and parallel to an existing tunnel. This is how you know that
Obama’s proposed projects are a waste of taxpayer money and economically
The fact is that every single government infrastructure
project will sooner or later be paid for with taxes from the pockets of
Americans. For example, the government might take $200 million from
Americans in order to build a tunnel, and the politicians involved will
boast about having funded the construction of this tunnel, which will
have temporarily employed 1,000 people.
But what these politicians – and, unfortunately, most of
their constituents – do not see is that those $200 million, if they were
not taxed away, would have been spent by people at computer stores,
restaurants, pet stores, hospitals and so on. (Alternatively, the money
would have been “saved,” meaning it would have been given to investors
through banks or stocks and used to start or expand computer stores and
restaurants). The money would have created jobs in those businesses and
industries, and would have created them in a much more efficient and
sustainable manner than the government did.
In other words, by funding the tunnel project, the government
did not “create” any net jobs. Yes, it created tunnel
jobs, but was only able to do so by destroying at least as many jobs in
the computer, restaurant, hospital and other industries. But the
government did not add one single net job to the economy by hiring
people to work on the tunnel. It merely reassigned these jobs from other
industries into the tunnel industry.
Now, this consequence would be acceptable if, as noted
earlier, the community was in genuine need of a tunnel. But Obama’s
plan, which by his own admission is designed around the objective of
“creating jobs,” and which even pushes states to spend on infrastructure
projects they don’t need, does not justify taxing Americans and
diverting their jobs.
Americans deserve to spend their money on things they desire.
Taking their money so politicians can claim credit for “creating” jobs
not only carelessly reassigns workers, but also forces Americans to
spend their money on unneeded projects. To the extent that Obama’s plan
is intended to “create” jobs, it is an irresponsible waste in every way.
© 2008 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback
about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column # PI143.
permission to publish here.