This American Life Questions the Premise of “Job Creation”

Can a Governor — or a President — “create” a job? After speaking with more than a few economists and subject matter experts, the celebrated radio program’s conclusion seems to be… no. Except over the long term, in which case infrastructure, in the form of public universities, etcetera, matters much more.

Why don’t we hear this argument a lot? Well, think about it: if you’re perceived as “successful” in job creation, you’ll stay way the Hell away from anything that threatens to question your “achievement.” And if you’re perceived as “unsuccessful,” it sounds like an overthought and convenient excuse. If campaigns require selective indulgence in myths, this is certainly one to cultivate.



  1. How can you say the government can’t create a job? Every time they fund a construction project they create jobs. Millions of people work for the government. Millions work for companies such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, NorthrupGrumman, and Boeing that get government contracts. You have police, firemen, park workers, transportation workers… all of whom work for the government.

  2. That’s true — job creation in the direct Keynesian sense isn’t that hard. But that economic philosophy is on the outs, since it’s apparently socialism or something.

    1. [That’s true — job creation in the direct Keynesian sense isn’t that hard.]

      Tax cuts intended to stimulate the economy are also Keynesian methods. They are inefficient compared to infrastructure spending, though.

  3. Also, infrastructure constructions jobs are only ever temporary.

    And there’s not only the Keynesian problem, but any permanent directly created job is… a government job!

    1. yes, well the private sector doesn’t seem to be all that good at “creating” jobs these days either. So the real question is what constitutes job creation? Is it just a new occupation that pays someone to do something not ever done before? Is it a resurrection of prior work in new ways? What is job creation?

      Answer that, and you can then answer whether government does it. Keynes is a minor after thought.

      1. [Is it just a new occupation that pays someone to do something not ever done before?]

        That’s kind of a bizarre question. Most of the jobs created with stimulus funds are construction jobs, which go to private construction companies. When people are employed, they have money to spend, which stimulates demand for all sorts of products, which stimulates the economy.

        A big part of the problem right now is that too many of our manufacturing jobs have gone overseas, so increasing demand for products is creating jobs in other countries. It’s time to bring jobs back to America.

        1. Right, and if you look at the unemployement statistics broken out by education level, you see that they are below 5% if you have a Bachelor’s degree, but soar with only a high school diploma.
          And my point about the definition which you found ackward is this – the Right harps on the stimulus funded jobs that were created as “not real jobs” because they come about as the result of government contracting for infrastructure construction; this makes an implicit assumption that those jobs may go away at the end of the project, and possible be recreated again at another time. That actually makes me wonder what do we as a Nation mean by the term “job creation” and thus my definitions and questions.

          1. That’s right — they are only temporary, as are most construction jobs. The stimulus was designed to stimulate the economy by providing money for temporary projects. Many economists claim it just wasn’t big enough to be a catalyst for a dramatic recovery, but we are seeing signs that jobs are being created. And for all the people whose jobs were saved or created from the stimulus, they had money to spend and they spent it.

  4. Dick Turpis · ·

    Anyone else notice the current Republican mantra seems to be “The government can’t create jobs, only the private sector can, so make me the Head of Government so I can create jobs!” And without a hint of irony.

    1. I noticed, vomited, and moved on. Hipocracy runs rampant on all side of the political debate, and is thus one of the things you must be immune to if you intend to be politically engaged.

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