A look at Vermont's feeble job creation philosophy

In his January inaugural address, new Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin repeatedly pledged to "put Vermonters back to work, one job at a time."

On Feb. 3, Gov. Shumlin unveiled his long-awaited jobs bill, and hailed it as "by far one of the most comprehensive jobs bills that reflects our commitment to grow jobs in Vermont one job at a time." He did not explain just what "one job at a time" is supposed to mean.

A few days later, Vermont Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lawrence Miller explained to legislators that the Shumlin jobs plan "is about focusing our efforts, being strategic with our thoughts and working together across agencies and across the private sector [and] with our educational institutions to get things done."

The Shumlin philosophy here seems to be that jobs are created by a collection of shrewd, focused, well-coordinated government actions. There's not much to be said for government agencies that work at cross purposes to each other, but it's not at all apparent that Vermont's job shortfall is a result of a sluggish, confused, uncoordinated government failing to create them.

The jobs bill evinces a belief by the governor that the creative economy-artists, sculptors, poets, etc.-has the potential to create new jobs.

Thus it proposes to spend $100,000 to hire a new creative economy specialist to do something to stimulate the creative economy. This will end the years of government neglect and set the creative economy ablaze with new job-producing activity.

The governor also believes that employers lack sufficient incentive to hire new employees. His jobs bill promises to pay selected employers up to $500 when they create a new, full time position, and fill it with someone who has been drawing unemployment benefits for five months or more.

Note that the employer can't collect the $500 by just rehiring the worker who was laid off a month ago. In any case, the total pot of money to be made available for paying employers to hire unemployed workers is only $25,000. That's enough to incentivize employers to hire some 50 workers a year.

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