Anti-Stimulus PowerPoint

Mickey Kaus Columnist
Font Size:

A well-argued Ed Morrissey piece in The Week helps identify three distinct defects of Obama’s “public jobs” stimulus:

1) The “shovel ready” jobs weren’t shovel ready (as Obama himself has admitted), leading to a delay in the stimulating effect;

2) The money to save the jobs of  “firemen … and policemen … and … teachers” did not just go to firefighters and policemen and teachers. It also went to non-essential bureaucrats (e.g., headquarters paper shufflers, “diversity coordinators”);

3) The money bailed out states that were paying unsustainable pensions and benefits, enabling them to keep paying those benefits, so that when the federal subsidy ran out the states couldn’t afford to keep workers on the payroll and laid them off. (Wisconsin, by cutting back on benefits and collective bargaining, could afford to avoid big layoffs, says Morrissey).

Note that these criticisms apply even if you think countercyclical Keynesian spending helps (as I do) and that public jobs are a good way to do that (ditto). None of the objections would have applied to a Roosevelt-style WPA that immediately put the unemployed to work on useful construction jobs. They’re criticisms of BHO, not FDR. …

P.S.: It would be reductive and predictable for me to point out that all three of these Obama-era problems have a single cause: public employee unions, which helped delay the stimulus, which protect non-essential jobs along with essential jobs, and which negotiate unsustainable layoff-inducing benefits packages (because it’s easier to win a union leadership election if you increase the benefits of 90% of your members while laying off 10% than if you lower the benefits of 100% of your workers by 10%–and piss them all off).

So I won’t do that. …

I also won’t point out that FDR didn’t have to deal with public employee unions. And when his WPA faced a strike by traditional unions, he broke it. …

Mickey Kaus