Monday, May 30, 2011

Paul Krugman contemplating the high rates of unemployment in the U.S. and Europe, writes:
This is a continuing tragedy, and in a rational world bringing an end to this tragedy would be our top economic priority.

Yet a strange thing has happened to policy discussion: on both sides of the Atlantic, a consensus has emerged among movers and shakers that nothing can or should be done about jobs.
I'm not sure who is contributing to this "consensus," but it's not my impression that conservatives are part of it. I've seen occasional links to articles claiming that "the jobs aren't coming back," but if we believe or accept that, we're accepting that America's lead in the world is over with. So what's to be done?

One thing would be to do away with or limit the subsidies governments give to those who don't work. That sounds harsh, but if people can get by without a job, they won't get serious about looking for one.

Another thing would be to put limits on entitlements, by increasing the retirement age, making benefits like Social Security and Medicare means tested, and removing the present cap on payroll taxes, at least for workers, so that the highest paid also pay in the same share of their pay as the lowest. Eliminate the requirement that hospitals and doctors must treat patients who aren't insured or aren't in this country legally. Do away with the minimum wage. Sound harsh? Well, life in general is harsh. That is the meaning of the story of Adam and Eve who were told that after being cast out of the garden of Eden, "in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Stop shielding the unemployed from the need to work. Lastly, the power of labor unions must be broken by withdrawing the legal advantages current federal law gives them to impose work rules, and making "right to work" national law. Certainly the attempts to give them "card check" during organizing votes should be denied emphatically. And, of course, cut spending, balance the budget by reducing the size of government, pay down the national debt and reduce taxes, especially payroll taxes. I don't expect that we'll do any of those things, but unless we do some of them, we can kiss our position as the world's leading economy goodbye.

Of course, Krugman would oppose all of these. He blames the high unemployment on high levels of personal debt, not exactly an obvious connection, and proposes a W.P.A. type program, laws interfering with mortgage contracts, and "try to get inflation back up to the 4 percent rate that prevailed during Ronald Reagan’s second term, which would help to reduce the real burden of debt." Nary a mention of policies designed to reduce the uncertainty of businesses about the future burdens of federal taxes and regulations, or reducing the burdens government imposes on businesses and job creation, but that's no big surprise.

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