As I sat in my family room here in Boulder, Colorado a few days ago thinking about the utter ignorance of the people who are making laws in this country, I began writing this post. Then, this morning, I read this excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal: "Why I'm Not Hiring" by Michael P. Fleisher outlines the reality of the situation that the ignorant, poll-driven politicians have created. Subtitled, "When you add it all up, it costs $74,000 to put $44,000 in Sally's pocket and to give her $12,000 in benefits." the piece demonstrates why the "recovery" is "jobless:" The government is doing almost everything in its power to make it painful to hire, and is simultaneously making it clear that it will very likely get more difficult to hold on to existing employees by increasing fees, taxes, and other mandatory payments for having an employee.
In short, the politicians have killed any hope of new jobs.
And why wouldn't they? They don't understand business. They don't see how many flows in business, or understand forecasting, revenue, cash flow, or managing to a budget. After all, when they want more money, they simply pass a law to get it.
Of course, those laws never actually work they way that they had planned, since money naturally moves away from areas that are taxed. That's why no one is hiring.
So, in short, the very structures that the government is putting in place has killed the employment marketplace. It will not improve until there is some assurance that the idiots in Washington, D.C. won't make yet more changes on a whim and a prayer. And that's not going to happen until there is a change of thinking in those circles.
You cannot vilify business and those wealthy enough to run businesses without also decimating the job market. Yet, that's exactly what they are doing in D.C.
Update: So what can be done?
It's actually quite simple: lower the burden on those who do the employing, and make the costs of hiring and maintaining employees predictable.
How is that done?
That's also simple: reduce taxes and fees on employers and employees and create laws and policies that make those reductions predictable, giving 12 months' notice for any increases. When increases can happen at any time, business owners and leaders must maintain additional reserves to cover unexpected costs dictated by the whims of government.
For some real research into what happens when these kinds of approaches are followed, look at The Historical Lessons of Lower Tax Rates, the Joint Economic Committee report on the Reagan tax cuts, and Wikipedia's explanation of the Laffer Curve for some insights into how complex the interconnections are. Regardless of this theoretic conversation, predictability is the key to business management, and the lack of predictability is a primary issue impacting the "Jobless Recovery" that we're now seeing.
Second update: I am clearly not alone in my thinking on this. For another, there is Michael Schrage's perspective on his Harvard Business Review blog article "The Hireless Recovery" (my thanks to my good friend Stephanie George for pointing me to this article!).