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February 9, 2010

The Deficit Boogeyman and Jobs

By Sam Rhodes

Deficit spending during a massive recession is no cause for paranoia. Jobs are the only cure.


2008 Nobel Prize winner for economics Paul Krugman, who has authored 20 books and more than 200 papers on the subject, offered an enlightening viewpoint on another aspect of spoon-fed fear in yesterday'sThe New York Times.

In a sudden hysteria that could be likened to swine flu on many levels, Washington has a chorus of hand-wringing-fear-filled politicos belting out a song of despair. And it nowappears this choir haswarblingvoices from all corners of political ideology.

This unlikely a capella emanates from a bizarre belief that there is no time like the present to lower budget deficits. While I am no Krugman (who is?) a simple checkbook balancing approach anda look into the past while analyzing the present could reel in these Nervous Nellies if they justtake the time to stop and think.

Checkbook: If my wife Karen and I are out of a job andprivate sector jobs are stymied,where can we hope to find relief? As bad as the budget deficitchoir hates to admit it; government. But if government stopscreating jobs by cutting spending through deficit reductions, well, I think you get the picture: How Now Brown Cow?

History Past: Hardly a word can be mentioned about the current economic mess in the world without talk of The Great Depression. Actually, many Americans wrongly believe that this event unfurledduring October of 1929. Black Tuesday was not The Great Depression. One must analyze a timeline of events in the run up to and some years after 1929 to understand this beast we fear. And to say that WWII was the silver bullet that saved the world from economic ruin? Wash your mouth out with soap.

In 1934, 5 years before America entered WWII, Sweden became the first nation to recover fully from the Great Depression. Itfollowed a policy of Keynesian deficit spending. And actually, America's economy improved greatly in 1934, when unemployment "fell" to21.7 percent--over twice today's level.Furthermore, America passed major legislation in 1933, 1934and 1935: Congress authorized creation of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Farm Credit Administration, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the National Recovery Administration, the Public Works Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Congress passed the Emergency Banking Bill, the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, the Farm Credit Act, the National Industrial Recovery Act and the Truth-in-Securities Act. These government agencies all created thousands of jobs for a very unemployed nation, not to mention cleaning up a very dirty house of unbridled corruption and governmentpayola.

In 1936, deficit spending aided a phenomenal record of 14 percent growth.Roosevelt errantlycut back ondeficit spending, worried about balancing the budget, causing the economy to slip back into a recession in 1938. In 1939, FDR begandeficit spending that halted the slide of the economy.It resulted in somemassive growth numbers. Roosevelt's average growth of 5.2 percent during the Great Depression is even higher thantheReagan administration'svaunted3.7 percent history of economicgrowth in its highest years.

History Present: I am of theopinion thatwithout jobs, none of President Obama's--or America's--agenda to rebuildan Americawith hopebased on change will come to pass in the history books ofour future.

Speaking of hope, one President in Americahas a sextant he is using to guide workers on a course to a jobs creationvoyage tosteer America out ofits current doldrums. His name? Rich Trumka. The AFL-CIO Jobs Initiativeis that ship. Andthis vessel of hopemust be staffed with strong, sea-worthysailors from labor, unafraid of stormsand a stomach for abroadside.He hasone of those old salts he needs by his sidein this fight inAFSCME'sPresidentJerry McEntee, who last month climbed aboard the AFL-CIO jobs ship and called on his members to do likewise. "Federal action is needed to keep our economy from slipping back into the ditch. That is why a robust investment in the vital public services we need during tough times must be a part of federal jobs legislation. Too many services in communities across the country are being cut to the bone. State and local governments need help and they need it now."

Both of these great Presidents are mobilizing their membershipsaround a simple fact: No jobs; no America. And, as history has proven, a dose ofdeficit spending with an emphasis on job creation has a great track record.

Oh, and forthose who say "What aboutItaly with its currentdebt of 105.8% of GDP?" Take another look. Italycurrently ranks above 26 other European countries in GDP. Maybe allthis hand-wringing, worrisomestuff about deficit spending is justwasted time. But I'm not the expert. I'lldefer to PaulKrugman to finish this piecewiththe mainpoint of thisviewpoint.

"The point is that running big deficits in the face of the worst economic slump since the 1930s is actually the right thing to do. If anything, deficits should be bigger than they are because the government should be doing more than it is to create jobs"Thanks to deficit hysteria, Washingtonnow has its priorities all wrong: all the talk is about how to shave a few billion dollars off government spending, while there's hardly any willingness to tackle mass unemployment. Policy is headed in the wrong direction -- and millions of Americans will pay the price." Paul Krugman

Submitters Bio:
Sam Rhodes is a union organizer living with his wife, Karen Hamilton, in Anchorage, Alaska.

Sam's interests include photography, politics and writing.