Group pushes for predictability in the long run, tax incentives in short term

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post staff writer
Thursday, December 3, 2009; 9:50 PM

Labor leaders, academics and executives of private companies said the government needs to provide predictability in the long run and more tax incentives in the short run if it wants to create jobs.

Speaking at a small session with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Christina Romer, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, the group grappled for answers to the hesitance that remains among small- and mid-sized companies despite some economic improvement.

Debra Lee of BET Network said that because of layoffs last year companies skittish about hiring and have learned to do more with less, and now intend to stick with status quo.

"One of the areas I would focus on is tax incentives for companies to hire employees over the living wage," she said.

Labor leaders, including the AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka, urged immediate government spending above the levels already approved, to boost the fortunes of the lower-wage workers.

He said the government should expand unemployment assistance, food assistance and health care benefits; invest in infrastructure with American-made products; provide aid to local and state governments; and take money from the Troubled Assets Relief Fund, funnel it into community banks and have them lend to small businesses at commercial rates.

"We really think that immediate government interjection is necessary," Trumka said.

Prodded by Locke and Romer about the impact on the deficit, several participants urged the officials not to worry too much about the country's debt -- at least in the short run. Larry Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute said, "We're going to have to tolerate a substantially higher deficit in the next year or two."

And several urged the government to move aggressively to offer tax holidays, jobs tax credits and other programs that would make it cheaper for companies to hire workers.

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