How Do You Spell Jobs? H-O-U-S-I-N-G

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In these final weeks of the legislative session, there has been much talk about jobs and the economy and the need to do something for each.

But there are signs the conversation may be too narrow.

The governor and top lawmakers are promising action, but the subjects that come up are relatively limited.

"Regulation reform" is thrown around a bit, and so are various taxing and spending measures to spur growth.

But it's hard to find anyone who thinks measures in these areas would make a dramatic difference.

Using deregulation or taxes or spending on the state level to revive the economy presupposes that the state government carries big economic power. It doesn't.

The state budget, including general fund and all special funds, represents just $120 billion out of a state economy of $1.9 trillion.

And if the issue is jobs, the focus should be on the biggest drag on employment in California: housing and construction.

The state has done relatively well on job growth in other sectors, but the construction sector has been decimated by the housing collapse.

Housing seems to be at the core of California's economic problems.

About a third of California homeowners with mortages owe more than their homes are worth. That overhang -- estimated at nearly $200 billion in the state -- deters the kind of broad spending and investment needed for economic recovery.

A real conversation about jobs and the California economy would see the governor and legislature  doing everything in their power to deal with housing and housing debt.

Since most of the tools to deal with that crisis are at the federal level, California's representatives in Washington should be fully engaged.

Unfortunately, the end of the session conversation about "jobs" doesn't seem this focused, or robust.

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