Obama Getting Warmer on Job Creation - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Obama Getting Warmer on Job Creation

Spectator alum Phil Klein has joined the many conservatives bashing President Obama for attributing the ongoing unemployment crisis to technologies like the ATM replacing jobs like bank tellers:

But the even more obvious problem with Obama’s statement is that it isn’t even factually correct to say that ATM machines displaced bank tellers. The number of ATMs more than doubled between 1998 and 2008, from 187,000 to 401,500, according to the American Bankers Association. Yet data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that during the same period, the number of bank tellers rose from 560,000 to 600,500. BLS expects “favorable” job prospects for bank tellers over the next decade.

There are also tremendous economic benefits to ATMs. For example, Americans don’t have to wait on long lines during business hours to access their money, which makes them far more productive. 

This happens but rarely: I’m going to disagree with Phil. Obama’s statement, in context, represented an improvement in his rhetoric on (if not his actual understanding of) job creation since the days of the stimulus. 

Gone, apparently, are the days when Obama, Biden, and co. will argue that the economy is simply a machine that needs to be kickstarted or a pump that needs to be primed in order to start hiring back up. Based on what he said, public spending can no longer simply fill in for the dropoff in private spending when the economy slows down. 

Here’s what Obama said immediately following the ATMs quip [emphasis added]: 

So all these things have [created] changes in the economy and this [council] is identifying where the jobs of the future are going to be, how do we make sure there’s a match between what people are getting trained for and the jobs that exist, how do we make sure that capital is flowing into those places with the greatest opportunity. 

Compare that to the free-market economist and blogger Arnold Kling’s succinct description of the cause of joblessness in this recession [emphasis added]: 

…suppose that I had to start with a blank sheet of paper and describe the state of the economy. I would say that the balance between workers exiting declining firms/industries and entering expanding firms/industries has disappeared. Instead, we have had over a year in which exit took place at a faster rate than entry.

Another way to put this is that the economy is only gradually learning where the expanding firms and sectors will be. As it learns more, employment growth will resume.

In the first two decades after the second World War, the recovery from a recession required little or no learning about where expansion was needed. A recession consisted of unemployment among construction workers and factory workers. Once the excess inventory of housing units and/or consumer durable goods was eliminated, jobs in these sectors would come back.

These were recessions in which we knew where the employment gains would take place. The current recession is one in which we do not know this.

In other words, Obama is, at least in his messaging, coming closer to a more sophisticated view of the economy than the one that led him to sign off on the stimulus and other wasteful spending projects. 

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