Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wanted: More Better Grand Ideas

Bob Herbert writes in the NYT about the Great Recession and the predicament millions of unemployed now find themselves.  He rambles on about many things that strike a nerve with me, but one stands out.

Perhaps the most astounding statement Mr. Herbert makes is in the last paragraph.  Herbert says “New ideas on a grand scale are needed. The United States can’t thrive with so many of its citizens condemned to shrunken standards of living because they can’t find adequate employment. Long-term joblessness is a recipe for societal destabilization. It should not be tolerated in a country with as much wealth as the United States. It’s destructive, and it’s wrong.”

I’m puzzled. 

We’ve introduced nothing but BIG ideas lately.  In 2009, we passed an $862 billion stimulus plan that promised to put millions back to work.  Unemployment rose to more than 10%.  After that, we passed Obamacare – a 10-year, $940 billion dollar rearranging of our healthcare system, which promised to extend healthcare to millions of uninsured.  Then we enacted the Dodd-Frank bill, the biggest overhaul of the financial system since the Great Depression.  This bill created the Consumer Protection Agency and a slew of new regulatory powers for the Fed and other federal agencies.  Additionally, we’ve run $1.5 trillion dollar deficits for the past three years in an attempt to spend our way out of this mess.  The Federal Reserve has expanded its balance sheet by something like $2 trillion, commenced on QE2, and kept interest rates at practically zero for two years.  Whew.

Is there a remnant of our life, economy, or existence that isn’t suffocating from Washington’s grip?  Bob, I’m not sure we can afford more grand ideas.

Here's the link to the NTY article:


  1. This issue (big ideas, grand political leaders) seems to be coming up more and more recently. Or maybe I'm just noticing it more. Anyway, no one (but us liberty-minded folks) even thinks that just leaving us alone and getting the government out of economic decisions will "work." It's an ideological problem, I think, because the positive economics on freedom and prosperity are pretty clear.

  2. Jeff,

    When the government intervenes in markets, do we know what causes more disruption - the spending or the rules/regulations?

    Isn't our beef that government spending displaces private investment? As gov't pours billions into new sectors of the economy, private investment is crowded out, and it's private investment that creates more permanent employment. Has this been quantified? Or is this even possible to quantify?

    We know rules and regulations stifle business and act as a tax and disincentive for private investment. Seems this would be harder to quantify.

    Our economy is composed of many different sectors, each affected differently by gov't spending and regulation. Is it possible to look at a "suffering" (i.e. unemployment) sector and pinpoint the cause?