Monday, September 06, 2010

Treating This Like It Were A 1992 Or 1980 Recession: A Mistake

Paul Krugman, Laureate of the Sveriges Riksban...Image via Wikipedia

The government stepped in to bail out the banks. The government stepped in with a stimulus bill. But the government did not step in to create about five million jobs. That third part is the missing part of the zigsaw puzzle. The Great Recession has not been fed the Tennessee Valley Authorities of these times. It has been for the government to dream up the jobs of tomorrow and bring them home. And I am not talking cutting edge stuff that perhaps is best left to the visionaries and the qualified in the private sector, although even there, it can be argued, bold would be beautiful. Perhaps this is just the time for a Manhattan Project for the environment, or to take a man/human to the environmental moon.

The first stimulus bill was a little misguided. It was too small, the tax cuts were unnecessary. Too much of it went to just paying people unemployment and salaries until the economy went back to normal. That normal has not happened. Because this is not 2001 or 1992 or 1980. This is more like the FDR times. It is a great crisis that can be steered to create a better future than ever before existed. This is a time for big, bold action still.

Band aid solutions will not work. And caving into GOP fervor to go back in time will fare even worse. The electorate has to be saved from itself. The electorate has to be relentlessly educated to do the right thing in November.

What are the options?

Some say a second stimulus is a fiscal non event. It is not happening. I am not so sure.

The Fed has not exercised all the monetary options available. Paul Krugman seems to suggest that. And I agree. Letting inflation go up a little so it becomes expensive for the private sector to sit on the near two trillion dollars it is sitting on would be a great idea.

The president has to engage in vision talk. He has to start talking like he is the nation's CEO, which he is. You engage the leaders of all segments of the private sector in brainstorming sessions. You let them help you think in terms of the jobs, companies and industries of tomorrow. And you give a series of speeches. You are not proposing to spend. It is not about money. It is about making speeches to prop up private sector confidence. It is about pumping vision. Where there is no vision, the people shall perish. This is as important as fiscal and monetary moves, and the most in command of the top guy. And it does not cost money.

These are not normal times. The wheels of capitalism are not churning like they are supposed to. Capitalism is fish outside water right now. Political leadership matters more, not less.

This is not like 2001. This is not like 1992. This is not like 1982. This is more like 1938. What finally got America out of the flunk back then was the massive spending of World War II. For the American voter to vote for the cut-the-deficit people in November would be suicidal. This is time for more, not less spending. But more alone will not work. The spending has to be about creating the five million jobs of tomorrow. I am thinking more along the lines of basic retraining for solar panel installation and the like.

America does not need World War III, but it does need a second stimulus bill that will be geared towards giving history a push. It has to be about the government actively creating about five millions jobs of tomorrow. They would be to do with green tech, education, with health.

I am for a second stimulus bill that is a trillion dollars. Its primary component would be to guarantee 100 MB broadband to all Americans. It would require freeing up wireless spectrum not 10 years from now, but today. It would require South Korea like competition into the broadband sector. The Internet is the interstate highway of today. People telecommuting are people not having to drive to work. Save the sky. There would be a massive spending on retraining the jobless for the jobs of tomorrow. Shovel-ready is a worker who only needs three months of training. Dream up five million jobs in green/clean tech, in education, in health. Install tens of millions of solar panels. Cut the obesity in the country by half in five years. Send out health care workers with the task. Bring the illiteracy down. Send mobs of mentors into the inner cities. Pay them. Turn this into a country of 75% college graduates in five years by taking all courses and lectures and textbooks and journals online that anyone anywhere can access for free, ad supported.

This second stimulus has to be a declaration of war. America can afford to go from a 13 trillion debt to a 14 trillion debt, but it can not afford Great Depression II or World War III.

A trillion dollars is what America spent in Iraq alone. Some say it is but a third of what America spent in Iraq alone. A trillion dollars is not a lot of money in the big scheme of things.

New York Times

Housing Woes Bring New Cry: Let Market Fall: Over the last 18 months, the administration has rolled out just about every program it could think of to prop up the ailing housing market, using tax credits, mortgage modification programs, low interest rates, government-backed loans and other assistance intended to keep values up and delinquent borrowers out of foreclosure. The goal was to stabilize the market until a resurgent economy created new households that demanded places to live...... a dose of shock therapy that would greatly shift the benefits to future homeowners: Let the housing market crash. .... Caught in the middle is an administration that gambled on a recovery that is not happening.... “They are deeply worried and don’t really know what to do.” ..... Sales of new homes are lower than in the depths of the recession of the early 1980s, when mortgage rates were double what they are now, unemployment was pervasive and the gloom was at least as thick...... “extend and pretend” or “delay and pray”

That ’70s Feeling:Steven Slater, a flight attendant for JetBlue, ended his career by cursing at his passengers over the intercom and grabbing a couple of beers before sliding down the emergency-evacuation chute ..... The “blue-collar blues” were so widespread that the Senate opened an investigation into worker “alienation.” ...... “I’d give the shirt right off of my back / If I had the nerve to say / Take this job and shove it!” ...... Workers have learned to internalize and mask powerlessness, but the internal frustration and struggle remain. ..... Today the concerns of the working class have less space in our civic imagination than at any time since the Industrial Revolution.

Paul Krugman: 1938 in 2010: The president’s policies have limited the damage, but they were too cautious, and unemployment remains disastrously high..... the year is 1938..... the nature of the recovery that followed refutes the arguments dominating today’s public debate, discouraging because it’s hard to see anything like the miracle of the 1940s happening again..... the stimulus raised growth while it lasted, but it made only a small dent in unemployment — and now it’s fading out......More stimulus is desperately needed ..... March 1938. Asked whether government spending should be increased to fight the slump, 63 percent of those polled said no. Asked whether it would be better to increase spending or to cut business taxes, only 15 percent favored spending; 63 percent favored tax cuts. And the 1938 election was a disaster for the Democrats, who lost 70 seats in the House and seven in the Senate....... World War II was, above all, a burst of deficit-financed government spending ..... the federal government borrowed an amount equal to roughly twice the value of G.D.P. in 1940 — the equivalent of roughly $30 trillion today. .... Deficit spending created an economic boom — and the boom laid the foundation for long-run prosperity. Overall debt in the economy — public plus private — actually fell as a percentage of G.D.P., thanks to economic growth and, yes, some inflation, which reduced the real value of outstanding debts. And after the war, thanks to the improved financial position of the private sector, the economy was able to thrive without continuing deficits. ....... when the economy is deeply depressed, the usual rules don’t apply. Austerity is self-defeating: when everyone tries to pay down debt at the same time, the result is depression and deflation, and debt problems grow even worse ...... Even under F.D.R., there was never the political will to do what was needed to end the Great Depression; its eventual resolution came essentially by accident. ..... politicians and economists alike have spent decades unlearning the lessons of the 1930s, and are determined to repeat all the old mistakes..... the big winners in the midterm elections are likely to be the very people who first got us into this mess, then did everything in their power to block action to get us out .... a little bit of intellectual clarity, and a lot of political will.

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