Congress – Stop worrying about keeping your job and do your job

In merger settings, it becomes apparent the employees who are doing more politicking to keep their jobs. Their focus is beating the competition from the merger partner, that some will play themselves up while putting others down. In these settings, as a manager and consultant who led teams helping the merged entity, I would find myself saying “worry more about doing your job than keeping your job.”

This is an ideal metaphor for elected officials. The issues become unimportant, except for how they are marginalized into talking points that can be won or lost. Governance is thrown out the window. Solving problems are thrown out the window. It is far more important to grease the skids to remain in office or get elected. Elected officials worry more about keeping their job than doing their job. And, we are the ones who suffer.

More often than not, unimportant issues are discussed to win a political gotcha game. It is a true zero sum game, where I must win and you must lose. In a day when neither of the major political parties own all of the best ideas and, in some cases, have only poor ones, to say the other side is always wrong, is just plain inaccurate. To say that your side is always right, is even more inaccurate.

So, let me state an admonition of our elected officials. Stop worrying about keeping your job and do your job. At the end of this month, the Department of Transportation trust fund will run out of money, again. It is St. Patrick’s Day and have you read much about our Congress doing something about this? It has been extended through smoke and mirrors for a few months, but we must do something material. Right now, our infrastructure is in need of great repair. Right now, interest rates are low, so it is an ideal time to borrow money to improve our assets. Right now, we would benefit from jobs that would be created by acting.

Yet, our Congress will not act. They would rather talk about gotcha politics that solve nothing with the intent to embarrass the other side. Folks, it is time to do your job. You owe it to the American people. If you choose not to act, I would beseech you to relinquish your position, as you are providing head winds to any progress we must make.

A few workable and impactful jobs initiatives

With the domestic economy doing well with one of the longest growth periods, we have a lot to herald in the US. However, we still have some room to improve on job growth as many are working, but not everyone are in jobs that can provide sustainable living. Many are working multiple part-time jobs as there has been a trend for some time to cut hours in retail, restaurant and service jobs. There is a lot of lip service provided for job creation legislation, but one party believes jobs are created through trickle down economics, so tangible efforts to promote jobs either need to be masked or do not get passed. Yet, there are few things that could be done which will solve other problems and create job growth.

First, I have written many times before about our increasingly obsolete and in need of repair infrastructure. Bridges, roads, ports, airports, internet connectivity, distribution facilities, etc. are all in need of update, improvement or replacement. There is a huge bi-partisan message that this needs to be done and yet it still cannot get funded beyond Band-Aid fundings. These needs are long overdue, so say the US Chamber of Commerce and Department of Transportation, and with interest rates so low, now is the time to borrow. I repeat a theme from earlier, borrowing to build or maintain an asset is different than borrowing to pay for operations. From these investments, jobs will come. Jobs that will impact highly educated folks and blue collar folks. We need to fund the Department of Transportation Trust Fund once again by months end. Congress needs to make a move and do something productive.

Second, I have harped on this issue a great deal, but numerous studies by foundations and universities have reinforced this. Those states who have not expanded Medicaid are missing the boat economically. The impact on the states’ economies who have done this is measurable. The impact on the rural hospitals in those states who expanded Medicaid is measurable. This is includes more healthcare jobs remaining and keeping major employers in an area alive and well. Plus, those who need healthcare and cannot afford it, are being left out in the cold. With healthcare paid for, they will be able to spend more on gas and groceries. The data shows this to be true, but leaders in some states have such a negative perception of the Affordable Care Act, they refuse to consider this option which is economically additive to their states.

Third, in keeping with the infrastructure comments, some states have done a better jobs than others with reinvesting in their communities. Many states have Historic Redevelopment Tax Credits, which have an eye toward taking abandoned factory or housing assets and repurposing them to be community assets. The numbers from redevelopment are staggering over time. To take a liability and turn it into an asset that will draw business, retail, tourists, and jobs, can be an amazing thing to behold. These are examples of blending public and private funding to do targeted things. In North Carolina, our General Assembly wants to let the tax credit expire. That would be a disservice to our state, as we can point to so many developments that make a place more inviting. Of course, not all development is well-conceived, but there are so many things that can be invested in that will pay dividends, if parties do their homework.

Fourth, the renewable energy future is showing up more and more, but there is so much more that could be done. This is also where jobs are, especially as dirty fuel sources wane or are phased out over time. Solar jobs tally 174,000 at year-end and have been growing at a double digit rate for several years. If we invest in wind energy more, we could have over 500,000 jobs by 2030.  Yet, the federal tax credit to incent renewable investments will be cut back in a couple of years and the North Carolina credit will expire at year-end. These are wise investments, through tax breaks, that will spur even more growth. So, we should not take the wind out of our sails.

Each of the above changes would add significant numbers of jobs. They are not outlandish, as America’s greatness has been fueled by public/ private investment. The rest of the world is copying us, so we should not throw our baby out with the bathwater. Let’s invest in America. Let’s invest in us.