The idea that government can’t create jobs, or boost economic growth, has no basis in fact. That the government can and does help the economy, directly and indirectly, goes back to the earliest days of the nation. Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr., addresses the truth in a recent opinion piece.
….The case for government’s role in our country’s growth and financial success goes back to the very beginning. One of the reasons I wrote my book “Our Divided Political Heart” was to show that, from Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay forward, farsighted American leaders understood that action by the federal government was essential to ensuring the country’s prosperity, developing our economy, promoting the arts and sciences and building large projects: the roads and canals, and later, under Abraham Lincoln, the institutions of higher learning, that bound a growing nation together.
Both Clay and Lincoln battled those who used states’ rights slogans to crimp federal authority and who tried to use the Constitution to handcuff anyone who would use the federal government creatively. Both read the Constitution’s commerce clause as Franklin Roosevelt and progressives who followed him did, as permitting federal action to serve the common good. A belief in government’s constructive capacities is not some recent ultra-liberal invention.
Decades of anti-government rhetoric have made liberals wary of claiming their legacy as supporters of the state’s positive role. That’s why they have had so much trouble making the case for President Obama’s stimulus program passed by Congress in 2009. It ought to be perfectly obvious: When the private sector is no longer investing, the economy will spin downward unless the government takes on the task of investing. And such investments — in transportation and clean energy, refurbished schools and the education of the next generation — can prime future growth.
Yet the drumbeat of propaganda against government has made it impossible for the plain truth about the stimulus to break through. It was thus salutary that Douglas Elmendorf, the widely respected director of the Congressional Budget Office, told a congressional hearing last week that 80 percent of economic experts surveyed by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business agreed that the stimulus got the unemployment rate lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been otherwise. Only 4 percent disagreed. The stimulus, CBO concluded, added as many as 3.3 million jobs during the second quarter of 2010, and it may have kept us from lapsing back into recession.
So when conservatives say, as they regularly do, that “government doesn’t create jobs,” the riposte should be quick and emphatic: “Yes it has, and yes, it does!”
Indeed, our unemployment rate is higher today than it should be because conservatives blocked additional federal spending to prevent layoffs by state and local governments — and because progressives, including Obama, took too long to propose more federal help. Obama’s jobs program would be a step in the right direction, and he’s right to tout it now. But he should have pushed for a bigger stimulus from the beginning. The anti-government disposition has so much power that Democrats and moderate Republicans allowed themselves to be intimidated into keeping it too small.
Let’s turn Ronald Reagan’s declaration on its head: Opposition to government isn’t the solution. Opposition to government was and remains the problem. It is past time that we affirm government’s ability to heal the economy, and its responsibility for doing so.
Beezer here. The steady drumbeat against government, crystalized by President Ronald Reagan in political mythology, but almost completely absent in the history of the United States, is having its predictable negative effects on our national economy. We are in danger of double dipping because Congress refuses to create new jobs through infrastructure projects that no one disagrees should be done. The dramatic shrinking public sector in cities and towns has clipped more than 1% off our growth rate. The foolish ‘more is less’ economics behind Congresses’ obstruction of job creation via government direct spending threatens to raise unemployment and, once again, crash asset prices.