This election, 'jobs' is the new black

For the coming election cycle, the word, "jobs," is the new black. It's the buzzword that transcends the left and the right. From the parties of Occupy Wall Street to the tea parties of last year, the one thing everyone can agree on is that jobs represent the one thing they can agree on. Trouble is, they can't agree on how to create them. With so many divergent points of view converging around jobs, it's important to understand what a job is.

At its most basic, a job is a voluntary transaction between two entities — a buyer and a seller. It is a transaction that, when both parties live up to their expectations, betters both entities. The parties each agree to an exchange — the labor of an employee in exchange for compensation from the employer at a mutually agreed upon price. If both did not benefit, they would not agree to the transaction. When the situation stops being mutually beneficial, they are each free leave the relationship.

So where does government figure into this job creation equation? President Barack Obama has proposed a $447 billion piece of legislation to create jobs. Short of returning all the money to its original owners (with interest), the jobs bill has very little chance living up to its name.

Contrary to what the Worker's Party declares, a job is not a right. The pursuit of life, liberty or a job is a right. At least it should be. Unfortunately, the government seems most efficient at creating barriers to job creation.

The government has no money of its own. The only way it gets money is by confiscating it from others. In doing so, its diminishes the ability of individuals and companies to create jobs. Payroll taxes hinder the creation of jobs. Excessive business regulation and meddlesome permitting hinders the creation of jobs, no matter how well-meaning they may seem.

Other government-sponsored barriers to job creation include the minimum wage law (which prohibits the poor from offering their services for less than the competition), the criminalization of private behavior such as hiring a prostitute, using drugs or consuming unpasteurized milk.

Government cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. They cannot tax the rich into creating jobs for the middle-class or poor. A job is a voluntary transaction that betters both parties. Very few people — including Robin Hood wannabe Warren Buffet — choose to pay taxes voluntarily.

If the president's proposed legislation spent all $447 billion dollars on nothing but rolling back government regulations, simplifying the tax code or even paying Congress to stay out of Washington for the next 18 months, then the jobs bill might have a shot at living up to its name. Alas, it doesn't. And so while jobs may seem the new black, what Washington contemplates should leave you seeing red.

Dan Reed, Baltimore

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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