A Congress of Costanzas

at 12:35 AM

There is a "Seinfeld" episode in which George is helping Jerry to ambush a woman he's interested in. And Jerry asks him what kind of work he'll say he does.

"I'm an architect," says the unskilled George. "What? I'm not?"

In a sitcom, this is funny. In the real world, not so much. We have a Congress full of George Costanzas, playing politician when they are not, who think that saying they will create jobs somehow makes those jobs real.

While 84 percent of Americans believe that employment will be the battleground of the next election, all the political talk is about taxes and deficits. It's hardly surprising that both parties want to avoid discussing jobs. Technology has left industrial workers out in the cold and retraining is a lingering myth. Poor paying service jobs can only absorb so many out of work consumers, while with fewer people having the money to buy even companies with things to sell are laying more consumers off. Because when your focus is on your shareholders escaping the hungry tiger, all you care about is running faster.

At this point, it looks as if only government can fix the job market. Not by lowering taxes or eliminating mortgage subsidies. Not by giving tax credits simply for hiring. The funny thing about jobs is that they have to have an actual reason to exist. But there is a huge work force just waiting for the chance to repair our infrastructure and the country. Creating real consumers might also create investors and the stabilization needed for profitable innovation. All it would require of politicians would be for them to remember that the vow they took was to do what's best for the country -- not to enthrone an ideology.

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It's not all their doing, of course. Responsible politicians get elected by a responsible electorate -- one that forces them into the real world. Not people like the Costanza-like CEO who recently suggested that corporations should stop contributing to politicians until they got their act together -- as if corporate employment of politicians wasn't a major cause of this mess!

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It just makes me want to watch a lot more "Seinfeld."
    
With a Perspective, I'm Richard Friedlander.

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