Friday, October 28, 2011

Sometimes They Accidentally Tell the Truth

The Osprey: overruns and deficit spending are patriotic.

As the nation approaches the sell-by date on the Super Committee's job of cutting $1.2 trillion from the budget -- over 10 years -- or face the distasteful, especially for Republicans, choice of triggering $600 billion in defense cuts, suddenly the Republicans have discovered that -- gasp! -- government can create jobs.

The irony, or hypocrisy, if you will, is delicious. Here are some quotes from the olden days when the government was a job-killing machine that can't create jobs:

[Virginia] Lt. Gov. Bob Bolling said Thursday in Lynchburg that the government’s role is not to create jobs, but to create a business environment for the private sector to create jobs.
“We do not believe the government creates jobs,” he said.

Matt Welch from Reason magazine:
In sum: The government scooped up hundreds of billions from taxpayers, redistributed it in the name of creating jobs, then attached a series of requirements that made job creation much more expensive and therefore unlikely. The predictably miserable results (go to and conduct searches on “green jobs” and “multiplier” to see just how predictable they were) should have, but did not, shame a broad swath of the political class into a long-overdue facing of facts: Governments the world over are worse than no good at “creating jobs.”

 (via In a recent TV ad funded by the Republican Governors’ Association, [Ohio Governor] John Kasich claims his “team” is “keeping and creating jobs” in Ohio.
One member of this team is Mark Kvamme, Kasich’s proclaimed “job-creation guru” and now CFO of JobsOhio – the public-private organization created by Kasich and the legislature to help bring more jobs back to Ohio.
According to JobsOhio’s website, the organization’s goal is to “lead Ohio’s job creation efforts by singularly focusing on attracting and retaining jobs."
And yet… Job Guru Kvamme repeated something today he’s said multiple times before: “Government doesn’t create jobs. It impedes jobs.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH):
"If we want job growth, we need to recognize who really creates jobs in America.  It’s the private-sector."

Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
"Well if government spending would create jobs we'd be in the middle of a boom because we've added $3 trillion to the national debt in the last two years with these government stimulus efforts, so, cutting spending and job creation are not mutually exclusive."
[Fox News Sunday, 3/13/11] (h/t Media Matters)
McConnell and Boehner worry that they don't have enough flags.

And so on...

Now the Republicans have gotten the Keynesian religion. Here's Steve Benen of Political Animal:
Remember, during the debt-ceiling crisis, Republicans needed to give Democrats a concession to resolve the standoff. They weren’t willing to put tax increases on the table, so GOP leaders agreed to a “trigger” that would impose harsh cuts on defense spending. The point was to create an incentive for both parties to reach an agreement — if Republicans didn’t want to slash the Pentagon budget, they’d have strike a bipartisan deal.
But as the chances of the super-committee reaching a compromise evaporate, Republicans are now confronted with the possibility that their own idea — massive defense cuts — might come to fruition. And what’s their response? Spending cuts will hurt the economy and cost jobs.
As Brian Beutler put it, “[I]t’s hard to escape the conclusion that the only thing Congressional Republicans find more abhorrent than Keynesian economics is austerity for programs they like.”
We’re all Keynesians now.

  The Nation's Ben Adler, reporting on the Republican primary debate last September:
The only major back and forth occurred around a curiously meaningless debate: which governor on stage presided over the most job growth and who would create the most jobs as president. For a party that claims government does nothing as well as the private sector and that efforts to improve society are a fools errand, it’s an odd obsession. If you believe, as Mitt Romney has repeatedly asserted, that it is business rather than government that creates jobs then how can you argue that you will do so as president?
In fact, Romney went so far as to say, “If I’d spent my career in government I wouldn’t be running for president,” because then he wouldn’t know how to create jobs. It was an apparent jab at Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has been in politics for nearly three decades and has no major private sector experience. Romney walked the claim back when moderator Brian Wiliams asked if he was saying a career politician is unqualified for the White House. Thankfully pundits seem disinclined to claim Romney showed weakness, as they bizarrely insisted Tim Pawlenty did in his confrontation with Romney at the first Republican debate.
Perry, a career politician if ever there was one, responded by noting that Massachusetts had the forty-seventh best job growth rate among the states while Romney was governor, a fact that former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman also gleefully cited. Huntsman was even more smug when boasting that Utah ranked first among the states in job creation during his tenure. Perry, who has made the illusory “Texas miracle” of job creation his claim to fame, bragged in turn about the jobs created in Texas since he took office.
The governors all came prepared with job-related factoids to hurl at each other. “Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt,” said Perry, while Huntsman told Perry that forty-seventh best “just won’t cut it.” Romney countered that Texas created more jobs under Perry’s predecessor, George W. Bush, than under Perry. He also defended his record and minimized Perry’s by noting that Massachusetts and Texas have different political and economic conditions.

Here's Paul Krugman's take:
One thought here is that a Keynesian is an Austrian whose campaign contributors are about to lose a lucrative contract. But it also harks back to Keynes’s point, when he suggested burying bottles full of cash in disused coalmines, so that private enterprise could dig them back up and create jobs in the process:
It is curious how common sense, wriggling for an escape from absurd conclusions, has been apt to reach a preference for wholly ‘wasteful’ forms of loan expenditure rather than for partly wasteful forms, which, because they are not wholly wasteful, tend to be judged on strict ‘business’ principles. For example, unemployment relief financed by loans is more readily accepted than the financing of improvements at a charge below the current rate of interest; whilst the form of digging holes in the ground known as gold-mining, which not only adds nothing whatever to the real wealth of the world but involves the disutility of labour, is the most acceptable of all solutions.
That’s it exactly. Propose some kind of public investment, say in green energy, and the right screams “Solyndra! Waste! Fraud!” But propose spending the same amount on weapons that we don’t need, and it’s all good.

Josh Marshall of points to two Republican House members concerned about defense jobs:
“What’s more, cutting our military—either by eliminating programs or laying off soldiers—brings grave economic costs,” wrote Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week. “[I]f the super committee fails to reach an agreement, its automatic cuts would kill upwards of 800,000 active-duty, civilian and industrial American jobs. This would inflate our unemployment rate by a full percentage point, close shipyards and assembly lines, and damage the industrial base that our warfighters need to stay fully supplied and equipped.”
“Should another $600 billion in cuts come to pass, at least 200,000 pink slips could be delivered to active-duty warfighters; at least 13 percent of our servicemembers will be forced out,” wrote Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) in Stars And Stripes last week. “Another 200,000 job losses will come to Department of Defense civilians working at installations across the country. We would be asking 1 in 4 highly skilled defense civilians to leave service.”
In an impact assessment last month, Armed Services Committee staff concluded that deep budget cuts — or, worse, the $600 billion trigger — would eradicate military, civilian defense, and defense industry jobs.
There’s truth to that. But where have these guys been the last 10 months?

 The Republicans have solved -- or proposed, I don't know which -- the conundrum: government can't create jobs, unless it can, but only if they're defense-related jobs. In that case, we'd better not cut spending, that would be job-killing. The jobs Obama wants to create? What, is he insane? The government can't create jobs.

The president appears before Congress to present his job-killing jobs plan.

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