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Commentary by Congressman Lester Wolff (Ret)

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The political message is jobs, but the messengers of both parties seem to have no idea as to how to provide them.

Two elements must be taken as a given.

Government can provide some jobs, but this solution is akin to the role of the pick-pocket who misdirects your attention while he dips his hand into your pocket to purloin your jewels. The point here is that there is a long term cost to this, a Band-Aid on the cancer of the overhanging debt and the fact that it only adds to the underlying danger to our basic economic foundation.

As for the private sector providing the jobs, there is no way a prudent businessman is going to add jobs that compromise his productivity or profit.

Business is not either a philanthropic or private welfare organization.

The realistic assessment of the jobs picture is that if there are potentials, the private sector and the marketplace will flow to fill the need. Where we seem to get lost is we are too consumer oriented and not enough sales oriented.

My father used to tell me “when business is bad you can’t make money by just cutting expenses. You can cut losses that way, but to increase your ability to make a profit you must increase your sales. However, if you only increase your sales to yourself you are not achieving your mission to make a profit. You must sell to others.

So it is with government. I am reminded of a talk I had with people from a trade center in Taiwan who were briefing a Congressional mission. He told us “when a Japanese trade mission comes here it is composed of 90% sales people trying to promote Japanese goods and 10% of the group are buyers. When an American mission comes here it is composed just the opposite 90% buyers and 10 % sellers.”

This thinking must be reversed. We must aggressively sell American wares to the world There is a market out there for American products and American services

Its time we take advantage of the demand for American goods and services . Talk to the people in the street in Asia or Europe; American products have a cache that is waiting to be recognized.

If we want to create new jobs, let’s go for the international market with a series of sales oriented private sector trade missions composed of a mix of small and big businesses.

Small business in the US is not oriented to international sales. We must provide a training exercise for small businessmen and women to learn how they can really engage in the international arena. Forums, training sessions and yes aggressive financing to help the small businessman who are not financially able to sustain a program on their own.

In the days when comity was the norm in Congress, Senator Jack Javits (a Republican) and I (a Democrat) set up the framework of a private business initiative that ultimately created the basic elements of the Overseas Private Investment Corp – OPIC (not to be confused with OPEC). This original idea was corrupted by big business which squeezed out small businesses who were not sufficiently educated to take advantage of the program. OPIC reoriented can become a job engine.

You might say that we already have in place these facilities. But here is where we have fallen down. Many of these existing entities are latent lazy and political.

If we energize the American business community to the potential that exists out there and it produces the business that awaits, we can produce jobs for which there is a need and not an artificial stimulus that produces a political platform that political folk can stand on rather than one they can hide under.

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