Government Is the Solution

The plain truth about the stimulus

Why don't Democrats just say it? They really believe in active government and think it does good and valuable things. One of those valuable things is that government creates jobs -- yes, really -- and also the conditions under which more jobs can be created.

You probably read that and thought: But don't Democrats and liberals say this all the time? Actually, the answer is no. It’s Republicans and conservatives who usually say that Democrats and liberals believe in government. Progressive politicians often respond by apologizing for their view of government, or qualifying it, or shifting as fast as the speed of light from mumbled support for government to robust affirmations of their faith in the private sector.

This is beginning to change, but not fast enough. And the events of recent weeks suggest that if progressives do not speak out plainly on behalf of government, they will be disadvantaged throughout the election-year debate. Gov. Scott Walker's victory in the Wisconsin recall election owed to many factors, including his overwhelming financial edge. But he was also helped by the continuing power of the conservative anti-government idea in our discourse. An energetic argument on one side will be defeated only by an energetic argument on the other.

The case for government's role in our country's growth and financial success goes back to the very beginning. One of the reasons I wrote my book "Our Divided Political Heart" was to show that, from Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay forward, farsighted American leaders understood that action by the federal government was essential to ensuring the country's prosperity, developing our economy, promoting the arts and sciences, and building large projects: the roads and canals, and later, under Abraham Lincoln, the institutions of higher learning, that bound a growing nation together.

Both Clay and Lincoln battled those who used states' rights slogans to crimp federal authority and who tried to use the Constitution to handcuff anyone who would use the federal government creatively. Both read the Constitution's commerce clause as Franklin Roosevelt and progressives who followed him did, as permitting federal action to serve the common good. A belief in government's constructive capacities is not some recent ultra-liberal invention.

Decades of anti-government rhetoric have made liberals wary of claiming their legacy as supporters of the state's positive role. That's why they have had so much trouble making the case for President Obama's stimulus program passed by Congress in 2009. It ought to be perfectly obvious: When the private sector is no longer investing, the economy will spin downward unless the government takes on the task of investing. And such investments -- in transportation and clean energy, refurbished schools and the education of the next generation -- can prime future growth.

Yet the drumbeat of propaganda against government has made it impossible for the plain truth about the stimulus to break through. It was thus salutary that Douglas Elmendorf, the widely respected director of the Congressional Budget Office, told a congressional hearing last week that 80 percent of economic experts surveyed by the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business agreed that the stimulus got the unemployment rate lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been otherwise. Only 4 percent disagreed. The stimulus, CBO concluded, added as many as 3.3 million jobs during the second quarter of 2010, and it may have kept us from lapsing back into recession.

So when conservatives say, as they regularly do, that "government doesn't create jobs," the riposte should be quick and emphatic: "Yes it has, and yes, it does!"

Indeed, our unemployment rate is higher today than it should be because conservatives blocked additional federal spending to prevent layoffs by state and local governments -- and because progressives, including Obama, took too long to propose more federal help. Obama’s jobs program would be a step in the right direction, and he's right to tout it now. But he should have pushed for a bigger stimulus from the beginning. The anti-government disposition has so much power that Democrats and moderate Republicans allowed themselves to be intimidated into keeping it too small.

Let's turn Ronald Reagan's declaration on its head: Opposition to government isn't the solution. Opposition to government was and remains the problem. It is past time that we affirm government's ability to heal the economy, and its responsibility for doing so.

(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group

About the Author

E. J. Dionne Jr. is a syndicated columnist, professor of government at Georgetown University, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book is Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (Bloomsbury Press).



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Hurrah!  Let's aim for what we think right.  Don't Obamaize the bargaining by starting with what might be the best compromise possible from weird ideopaths, and backing down from there. Offer, at least, a view of what should be possible given an electorate that counts more than TV repetitions of a statement when judging it.

Amen brother.  I have spent about half my life in government as a city manager and about half my time in private business, including as a business owner.  We need both sectors working together to create jobs.  And let's not forget the not for profit sector which makes up 10% to 15% of the jobs in this country.   And as far as the stimulus was concerned, I was retired at the time the stimulus package was passed, and I was asked to step in for six months as the Interim CEO of a community action agency in Wisconsin.  We used the stimulus money to create a number of jobs in our agency's weatherization program, and we also spent two thirds of the stimulus money on private sector contractors who did quite a bit of the work making low income housing units much more energy efficient.  We also bought some trucks when the auto industry was struggling to get back on its feet.  And we bought furnaces, and insulation, and energy efficient doors and windows which helped other parts of our business community stay afloat.  That is just one example of how government, business, and not for profit organizations worked to ease the economic downfall which 30 plus years of largely unfettered capitalism caused.  Here's hoping there is a positive discussion and debate about the role all sectors of our economy have something to contribute to getting this country back on the track to a more equitable economic prosperity. 

If a government doesn't protect the rights of its people, then it shouldn't exist.

 Obviously Mr. Dionne has never read or understood Santayana's words "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". Had Mr. Dionne simply checked he would have found that in 1939, ten years after the crash on Wall Street, the Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., told the House Ways and Means Committee: “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong…somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises…I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started…And an enormous debt to boot!” Does history repeat itself? Yes, it can. And Mr.Dionne is urging  the White House and the Congress  to repeat the errors of the last Depression.

Obama proclaimed that the stimulus would prevent the unemployment rate from exceeding 8%. It went to over 10%, then dropped to 8.2% over a 3.5 year period. Unemployment is far greater now than it was went Obama took office. 

The question is spending. We already spent billions on ObamaCare and the CBO said recently that it was going to cost more than a billion dollars more than expected. Trust me, it will cost us much more than that. In my 30 years as a consultant and an SVP in the healthcare industry, I have never seen any piece of healthcare legislation that did not underestimate costs and overestimate savings. 

Obama has not issued any ideas about solving the Social Security and Medicare budget fiasco. Nor has he issued any ideas about getting the unemployment rate to 7% or less. All he has proposed is spending more money on public sector jobs, but part of the last stimulus was supposed to go address that issue, and all we have seen is a significant loss in public sector jobs.

There is truth in the fact the solution to ur unemployment problem must address both the public and private sector. However, to date the Obama solutions have not worked very well and he has no convincing story that more stimulus money will get us to where we have to be. The answer seems to be in the wind until after the conventions and the Presidential debates. We may be left with picking the best of the worst. Until then, I am skeptical about 4 more years of Obama.

This will be the incessant drumbeat of the Left between now and November, I'm sure.  Yes, government can do some economic good.  Of course it can!  But it comes at an economic cost.  The size, scope, and power of government in this country is vastly expanded beyond anything that is healthy for the economy.  In this commentary E.J. Dionne insists that things could be better if only the Republicans and conservatives had not stood in the way.  What?  Stood in the way of the Democrat party and its control of both houses of Congress and the Oval Office?Please, let's stop doing what's destroying us.  Let's turn this massive ship of state back to the intention of the nation's Founders:  limited government.  I have long harbored great respect for Commonweal, but I tire of its one-sided approach to politics and economics.  Your editors and writers are eager in their criticism of Church centralization and excessive ecclesiastical control, yet you seem to worship at the altar of excessive governmental control and centralization.The problem isn't government.  The problem is government out of control.  And now E.J. Dionne argues for more of a bad thing.  I reject the idea entirely.

The reason Scott Walker won in WI is because conservative policies WORK  Walker almost completely wiped out a crushing debt and guess what, the state and taxpayers are better for it!  We are seeing the same thing in other states with conservative governors like VA and Ohio.  In the meantime, states like CA run by uncpromising self-serving leftists are already over the cliff, and everyone is losing, from the taxpayers to the students of the CA educational system.

If there is one thing in this country that is NOT partisan it's taxpayers' dimes.  I actually think if Romney campaigned in CA merely on public pension reform, he would actually turn the big blue state red again, something that hasn't happened since Bush I.  IF you want proof, just look at the recent elections in San Diego and San Jose, hardly "conservative" wins.

Another thing that is not partisan is sincere goverment help for those truly in need.  But enough is enough.  Obama has DOUBLED the goverment, and tripiled the waste.  When we start seeing food stamps being sold on Craigs list and Welfare debit cards being used to pay for everything from stippers to Carribean Cruise Vacations, we know that entitlement and abuse has gone too far.

Heck, our own president jsts in his barber from Chicago every two weeks, his pizza chef,  and thinks nothing of using our hard earned tax money to use two planes and two secret service crews for his own lavish family vacations.  How can we expect a country to not indulge when our celebrity in chief, in between his 100 rounds of golf, taxpaper record breaking campaiging, and dinners with the "one percent"  shows us the way? 

Private Sector creates jobs, period.  But that's more and more difficult under an administration that continues to stymy everything from small business (responsible for 75% of new jobs) to oil and gas jobs that are a "no go" all due to excessive politicial serving regulations. 

Our educaiton system is an overpriced cesspool.  From our "5 star overpriced" colleges (thanks to easy unaccountable money via government subsides), to our "indoctrination" high schools (the latest being Planned Parenthood imposed in the LA School District), our best hope for our public educated kids are sex videos and a reality show. 

I could write volumes on taxpayer wasted money, from Solyndra to lavish government employess taking million dollar "vacation" meetings on our dime.  Again, no reasonable person would object to helping the truly needy, but that's no longer what this nation represents.  If we don't vote out Obama this election, we are more than likely doomed to a nation of dependent entitlement, that punishes hard work and success and rewards laziness and corruption. 

As Catholics, we more than any have an obligation to move this country into a direction of agape love, which is self sufficieny, personal success, and religous freedom, now less than a generation away from extinction.  The number one job of government is to protect us, and I'm not talking about salt and Big Gulp 7-11 sodas; I'm talking about are own worst self, which is deep within all of us when nanny goverment cons us into false security, or punishes success to the extent that there is no alternative than to "line up and shut up."

Even if you are or were an Obama supportor, and even if you buy into the cry baby "blame Bush" scenario, only a non objective person could fail to admit, that by Obama's own admisstion, he is unable to help us out of the "big ditch."

By choice or inexperience, Obamanomics not only isn't working, but is unsustainable.  To quote Margaret Thatcher, "sooner of later the people paying run out of money."



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