Latest “We Can’t Wait” Initiatives Extremely Small-Bore

The Obama Administration announced its latest in the “We Can’t Wait” campaign today. Previous efforts included an FHFA initiative to expand refinancing options for underwater borrowers with Fannie and Freddie-backed loans, a challenge to get community health centers to hire veterans, and a plan to consolidate two types of federal student loans, and to accelerate a change to the income-based repayment option.

Today’s moves are designed to accelerate business growth:

Obama is directing government agencies to shorten the time it takes for federal research to turn into commercial products in the marketplace. The goal is to help startup companies and small businesses create jobs and expand their operations more quickly.

On the other front, Obama is calling for creation of a centralized online site, to be known as BusinessUSA, for companies to easily find information on federal services. The site is to be up and running within 90 days and will be designed with input from U.S. businesses.

The first program just advances the process for grants for private-public partnerships on research and development. The Administration claims this will lead to a 50% faster take-up of grant money. It won’t lead to any MORE grant money being made available, I think, so we’re really talking about some marginal efficiency. There is also some language about encouraging more sharing of physical lab space and the growth of regional innovation clusters (like Silicon Valley or the North Carolina Research Triangle, I believe).

The other program is a website. Here’s how the White House fact sheet describes it:

Today, the Obama Administration is also following through on President Obama’s commitment to launch a centralized, one-stop online platform to make it easier than ever for businesses small and large to access services to help them grow and hire. Today’s Presidential Memorandum directs the Administration to create within 90 days BusinessUSA, a one-stop shop for information regarding federal programs and services relevant to small businesses and businesses of all sizes that want to begin or increase exporting.

BusinessUSA will implement a “No Wrong Door” policy for small businesses and exporters by using technology to quickly connect businesses to the services and information relevant to them, regardless of where the information is located or which agency’s website, call center, or office they go to for help. And the more federal agencies continue to add content to BusinessUSA to encompass the full range of business programs and services, the more we will be able to reduce the confusing array of websites that exist today.

You know, great. Government should be kind of easy to maneuver through, and more efficiency on businesses access government services theoretically means more productivity. Of course, no productivity gains over the last thirty years have actually gone to wage earners, but instead to the top 1%, so I’m not sure why this matters as far as jobs are concerned. In addition, these two initiatives sound like just general good government measures they could have implemented at any time.

I don’t know if it’s possible to get smaller-bore than these two initiatives. They don’t belong in the same conversation as the student loan and mortgage refinancing announcements, which themselves are somewhat limited in scope, but certainly light years ahead of this stuff. The Administration has stressed that all of these “We Can’t Wait” initiatives are no substitute for passing the American Jobs Act, but so far, it looks like the only part of that which will be passed is a measure to allow government contractors an easier time of it when cheating on their taxes.

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