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Chemists As Pundits

November 19, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 47

I have three observations about the letter titled “Presidents and Job Creation” (C&EN, Oct. 1, page 6):

First, presidents don’t create jobs, and neither does any other branch of the government, save for those jobs where the government hires people directly. The tax burdens these government jobs cause for the private sector often actually result in overall job losses.

Sustainable jobs are created by individuals and companies investing and operating in the private sector. What government (including the President) can do is create an economic atmosphere that’s conducive to growth and private-sector job creation. This is what President Bill Clinton was remarkably good at doing, and this is where President Barack Obama has been a total failure. The private sector trusted President Clinton; it’s terrified of President Obama.

Second, the reason President Clinton successfully created an economic atmosphere that was conducive to private-sector investment with healthy job creation is that his was the only presidency in modern times where government spending as a percentage of GDP actually fell each and every year he was in office. Thus, Clinton was the only president in modern history who presided over a government whose burden on the private sector was shrinking, not growing. He actually tried to end “the era of big government.” Unfortunately, he only had eight years in office. The growth enjoyed during the Clinton years was in spite of tax increases, certainly not because of them.

And third, the idea that higher taxes, on anybody, are somehow conducive to increased job creation and a healthier economy is as delusional as suggesting that your dog would love you more if you’d only beat him. To paraphrase Vice President Joe Biden from his VP debate, I think we need to “go with our gut” on this one.

Barry Hugghins
Port Allen, La.

Attempts By Chemists (and/or chemical engineers) turned political pundits fail. Abraham Clearfeld describes his method for determining the “best president” as superior to Michael Heylin’s or H. Burnham Tinker’s (C&EN, June 25, page 4, and July 30, page 4). The difficulty is that all three used just two statistics, national debt and unemployment, to reach their conclusions, but without a valid null hypothesis.

I suggest the three create their own talking heads program on Sunday television. They are as good as the others gazing into cloudy crystal balls. They ignore two major exogenous factors: one, there are national, and especially international, perturbations that drive up spending and debt (e.g., Iraq and Afghanistan) and two, the President proposes and the Congress disposes.

Stick to your test tubes, gentlemen.

Harvey Alter
Frederick, Md.



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