Home > economics, General Comment, political-economy, politics > Can we have some more?

Can we have some more?

Jared Bernstein, the Democratic Party’s left-wing economist darling is on a tear again.

To paraphrase Former Vice President Mondale, Jared has revealed that Republicans will spend you into the poor house, as quickly as the Democrats – the difference being the Republicans won’t admit it, while the Democrats will wear their profligacy as a badge of honor:

… all this conservative talk about cutting spending is just that: idle chatter. When push comes to shove and political forces are in play — and when aren’t they? — McCain will support most government spending as much as the next guy or gal. Conservatives from Bruce Bartlett to Larry Kudlow to Grover Norquist can caterwaul from here to eternity about “holding the line on spending,” but the phrase is meaningless. It all comes down to cases, and there will always be cases, like these two bills targeted at offsetting the current failures in housing and labor markets, that are worth supporting. And enough politicians will support them such that they become law.

Having exposed the most recent Republican about face on the issues of unemployment benefits and the mortgage meltdown, Jared goes on to point out direct government spending as a share of GDP has held virtually unchanged at about 20 percent since 1959.

Thus, voters should expect to ante up at current levels despite the outcome of the November presidential elections:

… there are big differences between the D’s and the R’s on the role of government. But barring a percentage point of GDP either way, the differences amount less to the level of spending and more to competence and fiscal stewardship.

For Jared, this is good news for two reasons: first, it makes the current scale of government spending appear as the natural cost of governing a large, complex, and sophisticated economy which is, nevertheless, prone to, “market failures,” like economic downturns and crashing housing markets.

Second, It make it possible for him to declare, “If anything, the pressing needs of the environment, public infrastructure, and health care suggest that share is likely to go up before it comes down.”

So we are left with this Hobbesian choice:

No matter who runs the show, there will be spending, and it will cost roughly the same to have good government or lousy government.

We want to state, at this point, we a completely in favor of, “good government” – whatever that is. It is likely that, “good government,” is preferable to, “lousy government,” – and, we note, for emphasis, it has the word, “good,” right in its name!

Lousy government – who wants that:

… given [the Republican] addiction to big tax cuts and war, a conservative government would also be an evermore indebted government.

Wait a darn minute Jared. (We just loved his use of the word, “damn,” in his post – its just so edgy!!!)

Isn’t Barack in favor of big tax cuts and an unchanged pace of military spending?

Okay, he is against the war in Iraq – thus far – but he is offering no change in the level of military spending, promises to “rebuild” military forces, and will continue to wage a war in Afghanistan.

And, neither he, nor John McCain, will touch the sacred obligation of repaying the holders of the public debt.

So, how is he going to do all this, AND, address the, “the pressing needs of the environment, public infrastructure, and health care,” AND, stop accumulating more public debt?

Jared has the answer:

… we live in a complex world, where markets can provide only partial solutions to the challenges we face. Market failures abound, and government will unquestionably be called upon to repair these failures. For years, we’ve elected politicians who’ve railed against this reality, pretending that they can refund that fifth of the economy that we spend on government –“it’s your money!”– and still provide the services we want and need. To put it mildly, it hasn’t worked. We’re spending the same share as ever, yet we’ve squandered years when we could have been making progress against the challenges of globalization, of environmental degradation, of deteriorating infrastructure, of economic inequality, of costly inefficiencies in health care.

That answer, in short form is this:

For the past 50 years, your government “squandered” 20 percent of GDP and still failed to address fundamental economic damage caused by market failures.

Can we have some more?

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