At this writing, President Obama is a few hours away from his annual State of the Union speech to Congress.
Obama is expected to stress the need for job creation.
Nothing could be more important.
The original Bush/Obama stimulus packages and tax breaks kept this country from going under, but did little to truly jumpstart the economy. Major corporations took advantage of all the tax breaks to pile up near-record reserves of cash (so much for trickle-down economics). So far, that hasn't translated into jobs.
But there are hopeful signs. Economists say nearly half of all major businesses are planning on expanding their workforce this year. By the end of the year, unemployment should begin to fall, although it is unlikely it will return to pre-meltdown levels. In major cities, where the major corporations will do most of the hiring, there is reason for prompt hope. But it takes a while for a sour economy to recover and trickle down to the main street level of small towns.
Congress must act quickly to provide tax incentives for small businesses to begin hiring again. It wouldn't take that much. If every business in Idaho added just one job, it would almost wipe out the state's unemployment. The same applies to Mountain Home. Just one job at every business in town would put most of our unemployed back to work.
That doesn't mean the heady days of the early '60s are ever going to return. There has been a Darwinian process at work in the marketplace, as surviving businesses have learned to do more with less -- and at lower wage levels (when you're desperate for a job, you'll take anything, even at much lower wages than you had before).
So it's a new age of economics out there right now. But in the end, every new job is a plus, and if Congress is smart, it will focus its efforts on helping small businesses expand the workforce. It must, however, do so quickly.
Now is not the time for partisan politics and positioning for the 2012 elections to get in the way of prompt and effective action.