WASHINGTON — In his acceptance speech Thursday, President Obama set goals of creating 1 million new manufacturing jobs, spurring hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the energy sector, and recruiting 100,000 math and science teachers. He made similar promises again on the stump on Friday, pledging to expand job training programs to prepare 2 million community college students for the workforce.
While some of these goals are realistic in a normally expanding economy, in other cases the president has made similar promises only to be stymied by Republicans in Congress.
One year ago today, the president laid out a massive jobs bill meant to spur hiring in schools and in police and fire departments, and to boost public investment in road and bridge construction. The president took the unusual step of addressing Congress to push for his initiative, only to be rebuffed by Republicans who rejected the proposal as another expensive stimulus package.
Any similar proposal now requiring increased federal funding — such as for education — is probably doomed because Republicans in Congress will likely not buy into it, according to Marc Hetherington, a professor of political science and expert on government polarization at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. “Of course, it’s important for him to suggest that he has ideas, but in terms of affecting the election, it’s going to be viewed as political rhetoric. Besides, he won’t be able to implement any of it because Republicans won’t let him,” Hetherington said.
The president might be on surer footing in his goal of expanding employment in the natural gas industry by 600,000. In his speech, he noted that his administration has opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and he said he would open more.
During his State of the Union address in January, Obama specifically said he would support drilling for gas in shale beds, using a method widely known as “fracking.” On that occasion, too, he estimated that it could create more than 600,000 jobs. While opening up new federal lands for drilling might prompt opposition from environmental groups, Republican officeholders will likely not mount any roadblocks.
To achieve his goal of creating 1 million new manufacturing jobs by 2016, Obama proposes tax cuts for manufacturers by nearly a quarter as well as the stripping of tax breaks from companies that ship jobs overseas. But the job increases, averaging about a little more than 20,000 jobs a month over four years, aren’t really as impressive as they sound. In the past year, the country has already been adding manufacturing jobs at a rate of more than 18,000 a month, according to the New York Times.
In this respect, Obama’s goal resembles the pledge of 12 million jobs Republican Mitt Romney boasts he would create by end of his first term, if elected. According to Justin Wolfers, an associate professor of business and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, “Regardless of who is president, [the 12 million gain in jobs over four years] is probably going to happen anyway.”
More robust measures to expand the economy would require more cooperation between the administration and Congress, Wolfers said.
“It’s not just about the White House. It’s about cooperation from the Congress. But Congress has stopped everything coming from the White House.”