For most of the last century, Western nations subscribed to the economic doctrine of one John Maynard Keynes, who defined the role of the national government in times of crisis as injecting money through aid and projects to put people to work and get cash flowing in the channels of commerce.
Through the inflationary peaks and recessions, the policy worked fairly well but it created a national debt that grew like topsy, no matter what. Now, the combined collapse of much of our financial industry and that accumulated total indebtedness threatens to leave millions of Americans jobless and our consumerist society broken.
The classic solution is to send money from Washington to state and local governments to fund projects that will employ workers and get cash into their hands for spending. In 2009, the Obama administration passed a “stimulus” bill and sent the checks out. Unfortunately the recipients in local and state government had other priorities and much of the money went to “preserving” current spending on police, teachers and such, all of which may have been desirable but did not create any new jobs, leaving the jobless rate at unacceptable numbers in an election year. Republicans are already claiming that the stimulus package did no good and only cutting spending can save the nation. The Democrats want a second stimulus bill before fall and hope that delayed spending from the first effort will kick in before November.
Any new bill had better restrict tax investment to projects that are both “shovel ready” and create new hiring if the politics can be overcome. There is no shortage of needed projects, from repair and improvements of our half-century old highway system and local freeways to new railroads and urban transit. These jobs will serve the nation, not just local interests.
Programs under the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and mines and minerals might put massive crews of the post-high school jobless into the woods to clear brush and fire hazard overgrowth. Urban clean up of derelict properties for low income housing and such would do much to help the highest unemployed communities.
There are plenty of ways to spend and create work, if only the pols would stand aside from their partisan wrangling and get the jobs done.
Until that happens, shifting money from federal to local control will continue to be an exercise in fiscal masturbation, satisfying for a moment but ultimately a wasted effort at productivity.
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.