Bill Bradley, the former senator from New Jersey and former Democratic presidential candidate who now works at the Allen & Co. merchant bank, has an op-ed in USA Today suggesting that President Obama give a July 4 speech proposing, "if any company employing more than 50 workers hires additional people and lays off no one, the federal government will pay 20% of the cost (that is wages and benefits) of those new employees up to $20,000 per employee."
He writes, "This program — which it should be noted will create jobs in the private (not the public) sector, a prospect that should please Republicans — would likely result in a dramatic drop in the unemployment rate....Republicans as well as Democrats should find this proposal appealing. I have recently described the program to a number of Republican businesspeople who have responded positively."
Mr. Bradley doesn't say where in the Constitution it gives the federal government the power to subsidize workers at private firms.
He also doesn't say why firms that already have 50 employees should have their workforce growth 20% subsidized by the taxpayers, who include plenty of sole proprietors or startups and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. To give but one example, if I am the sole employee at FutureOfCapitalism, LLC, why should my taxes be taken and given to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., or to the Ochs-Sulzberger family's New York Times, which already have more than 50 employees apiece, to hire additional employees to compete with me?
Mr. Bradley also doesn't say whether there'd be any other limits on who can qualify for these subsidies — brothels in Nevada? Marijuana dispensaries in California? Tobacco companies? The Nation of Islam? Church of Scientology?
Mr. Bradley also doesn't say what this program would do to our international competitiveness. Suppose an American firm sees the 20% subsidy and decides to use a labor-intensive route instead of a technology, automated route — phone operators instead of voicemail, bank tellers instead of ATMs, migrant laborers instead of tractors, assembly-line workers instead of robots. If those firms are competing in an international marketplace against firms using technology instead of human labor, the American firms would immediately become uncompetitive once the 20% subsidy goes away, and the 20% subsidy might even be subject to challenge before the World Trade Organization or something like it.
There are probably other problems with this idea that I haven't thought of; feel free to add them in the comments section.