August 31, 2011 at 9:29 pm by Dan Lynch
Next week, the President will go before Congress to outline a program to create jobs in this dismal economy in which so many people are out of work. As usual, he has made a major mistake. He failed to consult with me.
I don’t know precisely what he’ll have to say. I do know, however, what he should say. This is it:
“Mr. Speaker, members of Congress, my fellow Americans,
“We’re in big trouble. We have millions of people out of work. The economy is wheezing. Job growth is anemic. No end of this is in sight. There are occasions when the best course of action is to take no action. This is not one of those occasions.
“The impact of chronic, long-term, large-scale unemployment is incredibly corrosive to any country. It erodes a society’s values. It strips people of pride, self-respect, hope and ambition. It ultimately leads to social and political chaos. Look at what happened to Germany in the 1920s and the 1930s.
“We need to fix this. We’ve spent too long hoping that the problem will correct itself. It won’t. Now, let’s deal with it.
“Our best guide to what’ll happen tomorrow is always what happened yesterday. It’s not a perfect guide, but it’s better than any other roadmap we can imagine. When this happened in the 1930s, President Roosevelt got the economy moving again by spending government money – and lots of it. The result was that an unemployment rate of 25 per cent when he took office in 1933 dropped to nine per cent in 1937, when FDR then cut government spending. At that point, unemployment shot up again.
“Unemployment remained unacceptably high until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the government began borrowing and spending money on a grand scale to fight World War II. The national debt went from 40 per cent of Gross Domestic Product to 122 per cent by war’s end. At the same time, the war effort doubled the GDP. The end result was a post-war period of unsurpassed prosperity for Americans that generated huge tax revenues, brought the debt under control and that made America the world’s premier economic and political power.
“Well, we’re there once again. Only this time we’re not fighting a gigantic shooting war. Instead, we’re now fighting a war to restore American prosperity. And make no mistake, it is a war. If we lose it, then the Chinese will very quickly become the dominant power on this planet. You remember those guys. We fought them in Korea. Talk to some old people. They’ll explain to you how much fun all that was.
“Roosevelt put people to work with borrowed money to build parks, dams and other public works. Our situation is a bit different today. We already have the parks and the highways and the bridges. The problem is that they’re falling down around our ears. New York State alone has 110 bridges that you’d better not drive across unless you’ve been to confession. We need to rebuild everything and some new stuff, too. And we have the people to do it. It’s not like they’re doing anything better at the moment.
“Now, I know what some of you are saying to yourselves as you hear this. You’re saying, ‘We can’t afford to do that. Our national debt is 100 per cent of our GDP today. We need to reduce the debt, not add to it.’
“In a perfect world, you would be right, too. Only this isn’t a perfect world. Instead, it’s a grim, unpleasant world in which sensible people understand that they need to choose between unpleasant alternatives. Increasing the national debt will be a bad thing. Leaving all these fellow citizens without work for as far down the road as anybody can see will be considerably worse — vastly worse.
“We can argue over how we got into this mess. We can argue about whose fault this is. That might be fun, but it’s essentially pointless. We’re faced with a crisis, with a genuine emergency, and we need to pull together to resolve it favorably.
“In World War II, there was no dispute over the spending. Both sides realized that it was necessary to keep the country alive. I submit to you this evening that this jobless crisis is a problem of similar magnitude.
“Yes, I worry about adding to the debt. All of us should. But I worry more about where this country will be in 10 or 20 years with one out of four of us either out of work or in some soul-killing, menial, part-time job that reduces the national standard of living and ultimately impoverishes us all. And that’s just where we’re headed unless we start to pull together and to fix this just as quickly as we can.
“This is no more about partisan politics than Pearl Harbor was. It’s about the American way of life. We’re sitting here, snarling at one another about nonsense, while that way of life slowly slips away from us and our children and theirs, too.
“You and I have much to do. Our schools are a disgrace. Our kids can’t compete any more. Our roads and highways and bridges are deathtraps. Our collective future is worse than bleak unless we get off our butts, begin to pull together as patriots and tackle these problems as earlier generations of Americans tackled their problems.
“We can fight about details. Should we extend unemployment benefits? Should we end the war in Afghanistan and use that money at home? Should we look for cuts in the defense budget? And, if so, where and how much? Should we raise taxes on the rich or cut them across the board? How do we help small business, this economy’s most effective job creation machine? All of that, by the way, equates to borrowed money to fill the gap.
“All those are good and worthy discussions. What’s not worthy of discussion is whether we should continue to do nothing, which is essentially what we’ve been doing. Yeah, my trillion-dollar stimulus program stemmed the tide of job losses, but it brought us no meaningful job growth. Then I went and got myself sidetracked on health care, and the jobless situation got worse. So, I’ll take my share of blame on this, but I won’t continue to sit back and pretend that this will solve itself. We all know now that it won’t.
“We need to fix it, and we need to fix it now. And if that means more deficit spending, then so be it. That’s what it took to beat the Germans and the Japanese nearly 70 years ago, and this war to restore this country’s prosperity is no less crucial.
“I’m sorry to have to stand in front of you this evening with such bad news and with a proposed course of action that’ll sink us deeper into debt. But if anybody
has a better idea, I would love to hear it.
“Somehow, though, I don’t think that I will.”