Dee DePass has been a Star Tribune business reporter since 1993, covering small business, financial institutions, manufacturing and, most recently, the economy. Originally from New York, Dee came to Minnesota after earning her master's in journalism at the University of Maryland and her undergraduate degree at Vassar College.

Free advice for Obama, Congress and Bernanke

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: September 8, 2011 - 11:37 AM

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke takes center stage Thursday at the Economic Club of Minnesota to talk about, what else? The economy.

Hours later, President Obama will visit Congress and hit the airwaves with his message of jobs, jobs, jobs. 

To many, their timing seems a little off.  

Last week, just in time for a sunny Labor Day weekend,  the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the nation gained zero jobs in August and the official unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1. But economists at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) think tank, reminded everyone that  the nation’s under employment rate lies closer to 16 to 20 percent.

The underemployment rate includes 13.9 million unemployed Americans plus those discouraged job hunters who finally quit looking for work; college graduates who can’t find real work, and laid-off employees who could only find part time jobs to replace full jobs with benefits.

 EPI President Lawrence Mishel and economist Heidi Shierholz found that the recession’s iron grip hasn’t eased much since slipping into recovery mode in June 2009.

To turn unemployment around, economists at the liberal-leaning EPI have a few job creating tips for Obama, Congress and Bernanke to consider:

• Enact a job-creation program that puts 2.2 million people to work over two years repairing schools, rebuilding communities, improving national parks, and rehiring police officers, firefighters, and teachers.

• Invest $200 billion in renewable energy and efficiency improvements to create 2.1 million jobs.

•  Enact a job creation tax credit for firms that add employees, increase hours, or raise wages for rank-and-file workers to create 2.4 million jobs over two years. 

• Implement a federally subsidized work-sharing program, which could employ 1 million more people in the next year.

• Elicit further monetary support from the Federal Reserve to resume large-scale asset purchases and announce a higher inflation target, which could add 2 to 3 million jobs.

Surely, many of these ideas are not new. In fact, Obama’s already hinted at several in advance of his speech before Congress tonight.

Still, it’s a start. Now, we just have to see if anything actually comes out of it, or if the Republican’s “no-new taxes” and “no-more debt” mantra puts the kibosh on the controversial but job spurring ideas.

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