By: Alan Nevin
As Published in the San Diego Daily Transcript: August 22, 2012
I am confident that the state of the economy can be improved. After all, we are in the fifth year of the recession and, at the present pace, it will be at least three more years before we reach a state of acceptable employment growth and expenditures. We need more than 8 million jobs just to get back to 2005 levels.
I have sketched out a list of 10 ways we can get the country moving again, quickly:
1. Affordable apartment construction. There are some 500,000 near-shovel-ready affordable apartment units across the United States. Filling them in is no problem. There are some 40 million apartments nationally (average age — 40 years), so adding another 500,000 will not flood the market. The Fed could provide mortgages at cost (under 2 percent), thereby ensuring the feasibility of the projects. Based on a traditional ratio, more than 500,000 construction jobs would be created. The apartments can also help stabilize and expand business opportunities in their area.
2. Encourage the development of new for sale housing. It is true that some areas in the nation have a large inventory of vacant homes, but most markets are in balance. In a normal economy, we produce 1 million to 1.3 million sale housing units. Today we are at the 350,000 level. Provide below-market-rate loans to households that will occupy the new units, and encourage the lending institutions to participate in the program. Each single-family unit requires two person-years of work. Therefore, every 100,000 new homes would create 200,000 jobs.
3. Give tax relief to U.S. corporations that have profits overseas and that don’t want to bring them back to the United States because of tax implications. Give temporary tax relief for moving those funds to the United States as long as the funds are expended on new facilities and capital investment.
4. Initiate a massive public spending program for infrastructure. Our streets, sewer and water lines, and other public structures are aging badly. After all, our last major highway development program was in the 1950s, thanks to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. This program should have rigorous oversight so bridges to nowhere are not built.
5. Substantially reduce the amount of money ($1 million) now required for foreign businesses to enter the country under the EB-5 program. Under the program, foreigners can buy their immediate family into the United States as long as they create 10 new jobs with their $1 million. Canada has a sensational record of drawing in foreign funds in this manner; they charge only $500,000. Our present program is a failure.
6. Substantially enhance the SBA 504 loan program to encourage small businesses to expand and modernize. Businesses can now borrow up to 90 percent of cost. Word about this program needs to be broadcast to businesses across the nation because it’s a wonderful program and gets very little press.
7. Tax retail services and use the proceeds to modernize the nation’s infrastructure. There’s absolutely no reason why movie tickets, haircuts and rock concerts should have no tax.
8. Provide major tax incentives for retailers who have a specific (to be determined) percentage of the goods they make or sell made in the United States.
9. Pay half the salaries for one year for newly hired employees who have been out of work for more than six months. The second year, pay a quarter of the salaries. After all, the government is paying to keep them on welfare. Put them to work.
10.The Fed could make the first year’s payments for cars/trucks made and sold in the United States (and made with at least 65 percent U.S.-made parts). The buyer would have to qualify under normal terms. The payments would then be extended for one year. Side benefit: It might encourage foreign manufacturers to open more plants here.
One of the 10 won’t do the trick. There needs to be a concerted effort to put several of the programs into place, particularly those that have to do with homebuilding and auto building.
Otherwise, we’re just going to be stuck in the same place for a long time. And that’s just not good.