Jobs, jobs, jobs

So, I was listening to a great Fresh Air interview today with National Security journalist extraordinaire, Dana Priest, and she just laughed when Terry Gross brought up the Republican line about government never creating any jobs.  Oh yeah, anybody seen what’s happened with national security infrastructure over the past decade?

Anyway, I then got to work and saw Drum’s summary of what non-partisan Wall Street Economist types think of Obama’s jobs proposals (WSJ also links to a number of economists’ responses).  Short version: not perfect, but should lead to somewhere between 1 to 2 million new jobs and increased GDP growth of 1-2%.  Not enough of what we need, but definitely nothing to sneeze at.  Will Republicans support any of this– of course not?  We cannot afford to spend money to help actually get maybe 2 million Americans back at work– right?.  Obama says they’ll find ways to pay for it, but in a sensible policy world, that wouldn’t be on the table.  It has basically never been cheaper for the government to borrow money.  Conclusion: the government should borrow money to invest in the economy in ways that will create jobs (and please, please, please, don’t come back with this silly “but the stimulus didn’t work” business).  Do we have medium and long-term budgetary problems that need to be addressed by a variety of cuts and tax increases?  Of course, but right now we need to get people back to work (which will help with economic growth more than anything) and the economic “certainty” of an economy that’s going to suck under Republican austerity proposals sure ain’t going to do it.

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Best explanation of Social Security ever

Kevin Drum is on an excellent tear with his recent posts on social security.  This is my favorite (emphasis in original):

No, the real problem with Dalmia’s description is the notion that Social Security collects money from new investors and uses it to pay off previous investors. It’s easy enough to see why people believe this: it was, basically, the way the program was initially sold. And politicians ever since have found it convenient to continue this fiction. Seniors today are all convinced that the money they paid into the program during their working years was somehow saved up for them and now they’re getting it back.

But that’s always been a lie. Social Security is actually a much simpler program than that. I’m going to put the rest of this paragraph in bold so you can’t possibly miss it. Here’s how Social Security works: every month we take in taxes from working people and every month we turn around and distribute those taxes to retirees. That’s it. That’s how it works, and everyone who actually knows anything about the program knows that’s how it works. Taxes come in, benefits go out. And the key to solvency is simple: making sure that those taxes and benefits are in balance.

This is, of course, the way every government program works. Taxes come in, payments to soldiers go out. Taxes come in, payments to NASA rocket scientists go out. Easy!

I think of all the false notions I disabuse my students of regarding public policy, the idea that social security is putting money away for one’s retirement is the most pervasive.  As Drum says, both parties are certainly guilty of rhetoric that keeps this notion going.  It’s surely a much easier sell than we’re going to take your tax dollars and simply give them to other people because they’re old.  But, don’t worry, we’ll do the same thing for you when you’re old.  Actually, I think it would be quite interesting to see how much, if at all, it would affect support of social security if more people actually understood how the program works.  Hmmm, might even be a very simple political survey experiment in here.  If only I knew someone who could do that with a ready pool of undergraduates in the NCSU Political Science subject pool.

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