It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs — and jobs

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The View from the Middle

I laugh when I hear politicians talk about growing jobs. Like growing grass, they think all we need is a little water and some good soil. Most know nothing about the nation’s business.
Before we can fix the problem, we need to understand how it happened. Have you parked in downtown Denver lately? The various parking lots all have mechanized systems that have replaced parking-lot attendants. There once was a greeter at the gate at Hiwan; now long gone, replaced with an electronic device. These types of changes have occurred in thousands of businesses throughout the country, and yes, we do have to call overseas for tech support sometimes. American businesses are innovative, and they have eliminated millions of workers’ jobs, but they have also created new jobs. Someone has to design, build, sell and install these new systems, but it is unlikely that this work can be done by those who held the eliminated jobs.
I looked at 10 fortune 500 companies’ growth and hiring statistics between 2002 and 2012, and, not surprisingly, only two companies have hired employees faster than they have grown their top-line revenue. The two are IBM and AT&T (both are technology companies).
So it’s fair to say that businesses big and small are trying to expand without hiring any more workers than they absolutely need. My son recently got hired by one of these 10 companies. The process took six months.
Democrats want to spend billions on stimulus. This is not an altogether bad idea, except that what has been spent so far has not gone for shovel-ready projects. The Republicans want to redo the tax system. Is there any evidence that if they could accomplish this, that we would get anything other than more trickle-down promises? Even President Reagan’s tax guru, David Stockman, points out that what worked then, probably won’t work now. The world has changed.
I believe that if a group of us got together here in Evergreen, we could agree on some things that would help, and if Congress and the administration did the same in good faith, they could also easily agree on three of four things that would help. So here are my four things that come from the middle, not from the edges of the political spectrum.  
• Call off the dogs on small community banks. The feds have put so much fear into the heads of small banks that they are afraid to loan money to small businesses. The small community banks didn’t cause the financial mess, yet they are being terrorized.
• Agree that no taxes will be changed. The certainty of no new taxes will add jobs. As we argue about who will receive a bigger tax bill, businesses sit on the sidelines and hold off on any expansion plans.
• Do give business the ability to write off legitimate investments in plant and equipment items.
• The government should have a program to begin investing in infrastructure. No bridges to nowhere, but develop a litmus test for legitimacy, and begin replacing obsolete structures. Maybe the test is this simple: The money must go for replacement of things, not for people, and the work must be begun in 90 days and completed within two years. If the funding is conditional on these time limits, people will figure out how to make the projects happen.
This is just common sense from common people. It may not be perfect, it isn’t political, but I’ll bet it would work better than today’s gridlock and political bickering.  
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Jim Rohrer of Evergreen is a business consultant and author of the bi-books “Improve Your Bottom Line … Develop MVPs Today” and “Never Lose Your Job … Become a More Valuable Player.” Jim’s belief is that common sense is becoming less common. (More about Jim at www.theloyaltypartners.com.)