David Brooks Rolls Out Silly GOP Talking Point that Businesses Aren't Hiring Because of "Uncertainty"

In his latest column, David Brooks, the cuddly and oh-so-sensible New York Times-quality conservative, floats what Jonathan Chait calls "the single most vapid republican talking point of the last two years."

Republicans need to offer reassurance. Businesses should be able to predict what their tax costs will be, what their health costs will be and what their regulatory burdens will be.

Week by week, Republicans hope to issue a string of bills designed to reduce uncertainty, public spending and the cost of hiring.

Given how low the vapidity bar is set, that's an arguable proposition, but there's no doubt that the "uncertainty" meme -- the canard that businesses are hording cash and not hiring because they're uncertain if the country is headed towards Maoism -- is a contender.

Chait, like the Hulk, smashes:

The parties do not differ over uncertainty. On taxes, Republicans want to keep the low Bush rates forever. Democrats want to phase out low rates on income over $250,000. The uncertainty is that the original Bush tax cuts had a phase-out date and w can't be sure which party will win. But Republicans winning does not reduce uncertainty any more than Democrats winning would.

On health costs, Democrats passed a major piece of reform legislation which was designed to reduce health care costs. That is the law of the land. Republicans have demagogued all the cost-saving provisions, and they plan to hamstring implementation of the law by defunding the bureaucracy charged with carrying it out, thereby rendering the government unable to enforce the laws on the books. How can you possibly paint the GOP position as reducing uncertainty?

And on like that. To which I'd add just a couple of points.

First, when you ask business owners what their biggest challenge is, they all say the same thing: a lack of consumer demand.

Office Depot survey:

While many reports state that the economy is slowly leveling out and/or improving, the new results from Office Depot's Small Business Index clearly show that small businesses are still facing uncertain times and are continuing to feel the effects of the economic downturn.

According to the Office Depot survey of more than 1,000 small business customers, 38 percent indicated that they have been impacted by the economic slowdown ...

PNC Small Business Survey (PDF)*:

Weak sales top [small business-owners'] list as the most important challenge (34%).

Then, there are average hours worked. If businesses had enough customers but were refusing to hire because of "uncertainty" about taxes or regulation, they'd be, by necessity, squeezing out more and more hours from their employees. That's not happening, according to the Current Population Survey (via):


hours worked


AlterNet / By Joshua Holland

Posted at November 2, 2010, 8:00am

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