I’m going out on a limb and predicting that President Obama will talk about jobs in the State of the Union address tonight. It’s an easy bet because he has often claimed that jobs are a prime focus for his administration, just as he said back in 2010:

Oh yeah, President Obama has been great about creating jobs. Here’s a graph from the government explaining how we needed to pass a huge stimulus to help America recover from high unemployment numbers. And tacked on the government chart are the actual unemployment numbers. Looks like the stimulus was a success!

August 2012 Unemployment

But there’s a problem with the President saying he wants to create jobs: the government can only create government jobs. It is incapable of creating private-sector jobs. That is the responsibility of — hello! — the private sector. The force of government can best be compared to the brakes on a large truck. The brakes are incapable of making the truck go any faster, but they have a great deal of influence when it comes to slowing things down. Likewise, government isn’t designed to create jobs, but through its actions, laws, and regulations, government can exert a great deal of influence in slowing down the economy, which leads to job scarcity. The uncertainty of Obamacare, the way government has blocked the building of the XL Pipeline, and regulations by the EPA that are causing coal-fired power plants to shut down are three examples of government slamming down the brakes on the American economy.

Back in November 2011, DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the following to Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, with regard to the American Jobs Act:

“Well, we’re not focused on polls. I mean, we’re a year away from an election. The president is focused like a laser on passing the American Jobs Act, on making sure that we can put people back to work.”

Like a laser, huh?

Focused like a laser on jobs

OK, to get me back into the swing of posting stuff here rather than driving my wife nuts with my verbal ranting, [Yes please! --TPK] I’m going to use some political cartoons as a jump-off spot. I’m calling these posts Cartoon Wisdom.

First up, something by Lisa Benson.

Laser-like Focus

President Obama talks about having “saved or created” millions of jobs because of the multi-billion dollar stimulus. Back when the stimulus was being debated, the government put out some numbers of the jobs they expected to create. Now many months later, Republicans have checked out the reality of jobs in each market compared to what the Democrat stimulus promised would appear. Here is the table they published showing the prediction verses reality.

Industry

Administration Prediction of Job Creation by the End of 2010

Actual Change in Jobs since Stimulus (February 2009 – June 2010)

Construction

678,000

-853,000

Manufacturing

408,000

-707,000

Financial Activities

214,000

-310,000

Retail Trade

604,000

-286,800

Professional and Business Services

345,000

-211,000

Information

50,000

-158,000

Transportation and Warehousing

98,000

-155,600

Wholesale Trade

158,000

-135,400

Other Services

99,000

-72,000

Leisure and Hospitality

499,000

-69,000

Mining

26,000

-16,900

Utilities

11,000

-7,500

Government

244,000

+201,000

Education, Health and Social Services

240,000

+434,000

Total

3,675,000

-2,347,200

Over two million jobs lost in this economy, and yet President Obama is all to happy to claim that millions of jobs have been created or saved. Yeah. Right.

In every sector of the economy, jobs have been lost. But one sector has seen lots of growth, and that has been President Obama’s laser-like focus: government jobs. Interestingly enough, the list breaks it down into Government and “Education, Health and Social Services.” But here’s the dirty little secret: both sectors are government jobs.

But this isn’t a surprise to me since I have written about it already:

If you are uncertain how the current administration will react to some situation, just identify the action most likely to increase the government’s size and power, and you will know exactly how the government will act.

Have you heard the news? The U.S. unemployment rate increased 0.5% between April and May 2008, going from 5.0% to 5.5%. The immediate result of this report is a flurry of news stories bemoaning unemployment and reaching for their thesauruses to come up with good scare words: jumped, soared, leaps. Here’s a snippet of an MSNBC story:

The nation’s unemployment rate jumped to 5.5 percent in May — the biggest monthly rise since 1986 — as nervous employers cut 49,000 jobs.

The latest snapshot of business conditions showed a deeply troubled economy, with dwindling job opportunities in a time of continuing hardship in the housing, credit and financial sectors.

“Jumped” appeared in the title and first paragraph. “Soared” appears in the fourth paragraph, and “leaps” appears in the RSS feed title for this story. All of this reminds me of something Red Planet Cartoons published in April:

It's a matter of perspective

Stocks have taken a dive because of this hand-wringing report, but what does this news story identify as the cause of the “continuing hardship”? “Housing, credit, and financial troubles” all turn out to be the same thing.

Earlier in the decade, the government essentially forced lending companies to offer loans to people who were poor credit risks, or they’d be branded and punished as horrible racists and discriminating goons. Now — surprise, surprise — a number of people who were poor credit risks due to their unstable financial behavior are defaulting on these risky loans. Government stuck its foot in front of the housing, credit, and financial sector, and now government is reporting that this sector has taken a tumble. Well, duh! What do ya expect?

Certain politicians are always talking about government as though it could singlehandedly fix the economy. In truth, there are a few ways our government could have an immediate effect on our economy: namely, if it released the restrictions on ANWR oil drilling, oil refinery building, off-shore oil drilling, and nuclear power plant construction. Those four endeavors would open up thousands of jobs in construction and maintenance alone, not to mention the number of jobs created to support them. As an added bonus, we would be increasing our domestic energy supply at a time when there is an ever-increasing demand. Increasing the supply would mean a decrease in the cost of energy, and that would benefit our economy, and the world’s economy as well. And the increase in supply would most likely lead to decreased prices at the gas pump.

Or you could try electing liberals to government whose only promise is for “change” — what kind, exactly? — and whose actions show they prefer to restrict our energy supply so you have to pay more at the pump. So how, exactly, are liberals for the little guy?

UPDATE (6/9/2008 10:25:27 PM): Jerry Bowyer at TownHall.com posted a reason for the spike in unemployment in May — the minimum wage increase Congress passed last year:

Congress is to blame. Last year Congressional Democrats (along with some Stockholm-Syndromed Republicans) passed the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, which started a phased hike of the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25. Free market economists warned them that this would increase unemployment – that rapid increases in unemployment compensation hit teens and minorities the hardest. But the class-warriors are running the people’s house now, and they would hear none of that, so they took to the floor, let loose the dogs of demagoguery, and saddled America’s pizza parlors, municipal swimming pools, house painting businesses and lawn mowing services with a huge cost increase.

Now, we see the perfectly logical outcome of wage controls – rising unemployment among the most economically vulnerable. The chart above tells the story: Friday’s unemployment spike occurred overwhelmingly among teenagers, and secondarily among African Americans. Just like we said it would. A kid who is at entry level of job skills may be a good deal at 5 bucks an hour, but not at 7. Our anointed leaders gets to glory in their generosity (with other people’s money) and just so long as very few people in the media know that a demand curve slopes downward (a good bet, there), no one calls them on it.

Which makes yet another way the government has caused this problem.

The Republican National Convention is going on right now, but surprisingly, I’m not going to write much about political stuff today. While I have been too busy with life to follow either this or the Democratic convention live, I have been able to read the various addresses people have given. Mainly, though, I have been watching the crazed antics of people protesting the Republican convention. Ryan Sager, a member of The New York Post editorial board, has captured some of the demonstrations on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I’m sure there will be more on his site as the days progress.

While observing these demonstrators, I was struck by the large number of young people present. Why are they there protesting? How much do they really know about the issues? All of this made me think about the life-changing events that most, but not all, of us go through in our lives. Let’s focus on an archetypal John and Jane Doe and some of the Life-Changing Events (or LCEs) they are likely encounter. While these events have the potential to change lives, not everyone will be affected in the same way or to the same degree. With that in mind, let’s look at a few LCEs.

Becoming an adult — John and Jane Doe can reach the legal age of maturity, can demand that people treat them as adults, but it does not necessarily follow that they will be universally recognized as such. Generally speaking, when one demands to be treated as an adult, it is a sign that one has not yet demonstrated adult levels of responsibility. Being an adult means recognizing that one is responsible for one’s own life, and acting accordingly. When does someone become an adult? Well, there isn’t a firm age at which this happens, since assumption of adult responsibilities occurs at different times for different people. For instance, it is possible for a teenager to sue for the right to be an emancipated minor, taking on adult responsibilities before he or she turns 18. If the suit is successful, the teen stops being a ward of his or her parents and is now the primary person responsible for his or her own welfare. I’ve put this LCE first as it is, chronologically, often the first such event in John and Jane’s life, but it is difficult to quantify when adulthood begins. Unfortunately, there are many grown individuals who never become adults in the defined sense, because they never become fully responsible for themselves. But enough of this vague stuff; let’s look at more concrete LCEs.

Living on your own — This LCE could happen to John and Jane Doe before reaching adulthood, but more often it is tied to the experience. Whether John decides to strike out on his own, or Jane’s parents kick her out of the nest, leaving home is a major step in the process toward maturity. Leaving home is a huge LCE. No longer is Mom there to wake John up for his classes, or to tell Jane to clean her room. John and Jane can stay up as late as they want, eat and drink what they want, and come and go as they want. But this new freedom also unleashes other freedoms: to fail their classes, to live in the filth they create, and to cheese off their roommates as they come stumbling in during the wee hours of the morning. One of the life lessons that comes from living away from home is learning to shoulder responsibility, including the need to pay one’s share of the food, rent and maintenance. For many Johns and Janes, the shock of having to do their own laundry and wash their own dishes is a cold splash of reality that can shock them into becoming more responsible. The parents who dealt with years of finicky John and Jane turning up their noses at the meal set before them can look forward to a time when their newly-independent children lament how their overcooked ramen noodles or mac ‘n’ cheese just don’t taste as good as the Sunday roast Mom used to make.

Getting a job — The first time John and Jane get a job, it will likely be drudgery at low wages. But life is often not fun, and yet it must still be lived. A job teaches a willing learner to show up on time, work until the task is complete, work even when it isn’t enjoyable, and deal with bosses and co-workers whom he or she may not like at all. And the first time John and Jane notice the difference between their take-home pay and their gross pay, the whole concept of income tax will hit them like a ton of 1040 EZ forms. There are so many good life lessons that can come from a job. Ideally, John and Jane Doe should get a job while still in their teen years. How much better off they will be if they have mastered early the skills a job can teach, rather than waiting until after they’ve finished school!

Getting an education — This education can be in the form of a community college, a university, a trade school, or a craft apprenticeship. Since life is a continuing education in one form or other, learning how to study and master new ideas and skills is vital. Depending on John and Jane’s experiences, going to college may be the first time they leave home and venture out on their own. Since our culture conveys most information through text, two key educational skills are learning to read and learning to love reading. These skills will carry over into nearly every other area of John and Jane’s adult life.

Getting married — Until John and Jane Doe get married (and I hope they marry other people, since they are siblings — eww), their main focus is inward: my education, my job, my money, my dreams, my wants, my needs. But a marriage is not just one person; it is a blending of two lives. At this point, the focus becomes shared: our education, our job, our money, our dreams, our wants, our needs. To make their marriages work, John and Jane had better spend time focusing on their spouses. A truly loving marriage is demonstrated by how much each spouse focuses on the other, rather than on the self.

Having kids — If getting married turns the focus away from yourself and puts it on another, then the act of having and raising kids will continue to amplify this process. While John and Jane may love their spouses (if the plural of mouse is mice, why isn’t the plural of spouse properly spice?), an adult will not need anywhere near the constant care and attention that a newborn baby demands. How many times do we hear of a parent who sacrifices time, money, labor, and life to care for his or her child? Becoming a parent is almost always a Life-Changing Event. In the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, a father and son have a heated exchange where the father talks about the sacrifices he made for his son, working as a mailman so his son could go to college; he claims that his son owes him for those sacrifices. The son’s response may seem at first insensitive, but is actually very wise: “I owe you nothing, Dad. If you carried that mailbag a million miles, you did what you were supposed to do. You owed me everything you could ever do for me, just as I will owe my kids.” The son understands what the father did not: that sacrifice for one’s children is a necessary and inextricable part of parenting.

So many of the protesters I see in New York appear to be young, and I can’t help but think that most have had very few LCEs in their lives. I don’t worry about that too much; given time, that will change. I feel truly sorry for the older people who have presumably had many experiences in life, but who have failed to experience a life-changing event.