By Alan Nevin
Dear Mr. Obama,
I was a little disappointed when I never received a reply from the letter I wrote you last year, but I think I’ll try again. It is fairly obvious that the economy has stalled out and that nobody is doing anything creative to get us back into a more positive position.
Although you no doubt have been barraged with brilliant suggestions from your highly educated team of gurus, I have a few more that could help put back to work the 14 million Americans who are out of work and many more who are underemployed. After all, that is a lot of folks who could be paying taxes and buying goods. Some of those goods may even be made in the U.S.
Let me offer six suggestions for your consideration:
- We need several hundred thousand more affordable rental units in this nation. As the Feds pay less than 2.0 percent for its money, it would make sense to fund 500,000 new affordable rental units all around the nation. Typically, each new unit would directly create 1.5-2.0 person years of work. With the construction industry multiplier of more than 2.0, a half million new affordable rental units would create more than 1.5 million jobs over the next two years. The good news is that there are more than 500,000 units designed and ready to go. No downtime. And millions of American households stand by to rent those units.
- Add $1 per gallon to vehicular gas taxes. After all, we have the lowest gas taxes of any place in the industrialized world. Allocate it by state on pro rata basis. Mandate that all the funds be used for infrastructure replacement and repair. That’s $150 billion a year (we use 9 million gallons a day). That’s a lot of new jobs in desperately needed highway and infrastructure construction. Construction of football stadiums would be off-limits for these funds.
- Offer a continuing long-term tax credit program for home insulation and water heat/HVAC replacement. The majority of homes in this nation are more than 50 years of age, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, and a high proportion cannot afford to update their homes, especially seniors. For seniors, you might want to consider cash grants repayable upon resale of their homes. Insulation and new water heaters and heating/air conditioning systems will save millions of gallons of fuel each year, making us less dependent on Arab nations. And the program will create jobs.
- Offer to pay 50 percent of the first year’s salary for any additional employment offered by small business. There are 6 million small businesses in the U.S. — 1.2 million of them in California alone. That’s better than paying unemployment stipends. And small business suffered 60 percent of the employment losses in this recession.
- Offer each member of the military one extra year of service and utilize this incredible talent base in the civilian sector as part of the infrastructure repair and replacement team and in the school and library systems. They can hold these jobs while attending college that you are already paying for. Hopefully, there will be hundreds of thousands coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq in the next two years.
- And finally, with all the new jobs created, there will be demand for millions of new owner-occupied housing units in many U.S. metropolitan areas. Each new home generates two person years of work. Each year our nation adds more than 1 million households, and other than those states that are losing population, the vacancy rate in for-sale housing is negligible. We will need new housing in states like California, Florida and Texas. And every time somebody buys a new house, the trickle-down effect produces sales of four resale homes. That inevitably generates billions of dollars in remodeling, appliance and interior furnishings, and landscaping.
Overall, your administration will be judged, almost in entirety, on its ability to put the U.S. back to work. And the next election is not too far away.