MATTHEWS: Can you talk to the people of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, et cetera, all those Rust Belt states, if you will, and you can promiseÃ¢€”can you promise those middle aged workers my age, who are losing their jobs, can you promise them that youÃ¢€˜re going to keep those jobs for them?
EDWARDS: No, that wouldnÃ¢€˜t be the truth, Chris.
I think what I can say to them is that we can change our trade policy.
That will have an impact on the flow of these jobs.
We can change our tax policy and not give tax breaks to American companies leaving and going overseas, and instead reverse that and give breaks to companies that are staying here.
I think it will have an impact. But I think they deserve to know the truth, and we have other work to do to create additional jobs and new jobs to replace the jobs that have been lost.
The “No, that wouldnÃ¢€˜t be the truth” appears candid but is rather negated by the rest of the answer. Aside from expanding the federal workforce, or engaging in massive spending programs, there’s not a whole lot presidents can do to create jobs. The best they can do is create a tax and regulatory environment that doesn’t get in the way of growth and hope the business cycle does the rest.
Perhaps the best thing Bill Clinton did when he was in office was to aggressively support free trade. Indeed, it seemed to be the only issue he was actually ideologically commited to; he even spent significant political capital and alienated part of his own base by supporting NAFTA. But, combined with the huge Internet boom, the economy took off beyond anyone’s dreams. For Edwards to be running on a neo-mercantilist platform in the guise of job creation makes him no better than Pat Buchanan or Ross Perot.