BIA Commentary and Opinion
By Ted Barnhart
In his recent book How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes Peter Schiff describes John Maynard Keynes as “a vry smart early twentieth century English academic who developed some very stupid ideas about what makes economies grow. Essentially Keynes managed to pull off one of the neatest tricks imaginable: he made something simple seem to be hopelessly complex.”
Perhaps Keynes greatest scam of all is the so called “Paradox of Thrift” which postulates that saving your money can be a bad idea.
If you thought that idea is crazy (it is), now they tell us that the best way to create jobs is to pay people not to work.
Let me say that again. Serious (supposedly) people are telling us that the best way to create jobs in this country is to pay people not to work.
Here is but a sampling of the latest fever to spread throughout the Keynesian camp and supporters:
Nancy Pelosi recently told us “Economists tell us that unemployment insurance — the non-partisan Urban Institute estimated that unemployment insurance returns $2 to the economy for every $1 spent.”
Rachel Maddow picked up the ball and proudly trumpeted “the single most effective thing that they studied that Washington can do to reduce unemployment—the very top? Increasing aid to the unemployed,” citing a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study.
Not to be out done, Keith Olbermann in his “special comment” in regards to the tax deal compromise proclaimed “The unemployed — unlike the rich whom this President has just bowed to are, in fact, the job creators.”
The list goes on, but you get the idea. For the record, from a political standpoint I really don’t have much of a problem with an extension of unemployment benefits, there are much bigger issues for free market supporters to fight.
But when you try to tell me that the best way to create jobs is to pay people not to work, I am going to tell you that maybe it is time for us to sit down and have “that” talk about Santa.
To put it in Mr. Schiff’s terms: paying people not to work in the name of creating jobs is “a really stupid idea.”
Do these people really believe this line of reasoning? If so, here are some questions I would love to have answered:
(Former) Speaker Pelosi: If we can really get $2 back for every $1 spent on un-insurance benefits, shouldn’t we fire everyone and pay them not to work?
Keith Olbermann: The jobless population is full of extremely intelligent, hard working and capable people. If it is in fact the jobless that create the jobs, why are these intelligent, hardworking and capable people not able to create a job for themselves?
Rachel Maddow: You tell us
“that Of the 11 different policies they [CBO] evaluated, the single most effective one for creating jobs: unemployment benefits. The single least effective one for creating jobs was, oh, reducing income taxes. Yes. So, again, to be clear, most effective, best thing for the economy: unemployment benefits. Least effective in terms of what‘s good for the economy: reducing income taxes.
This is multiple choice and you get the answers. Not from some schmuck on cable TV, but from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, that office that studies this stuff.”
My questions for you are: Did you read the fine print in regards to the CBO analysis? Do you understand how this conclusion was reached? Does the idea that unemployment insurance is the best policy to create jobs, pass the smell test?
Or are you just “some schmuck” on cable TV.
Indeed the CBO report cited by Maddow and others tells us on page 14 that “the approach adopted to measure a policy’s effect on output is similar to the method CBO previously used to asses the effect of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, Public Law 11-5).”
You probably remember that one. It was the report where they stopped telling us how many jobs were created and started telling us how many jobs were “saved.”
It doesn’t take much to find criticism of that report and methodology, but among my favorites is a piece written by Louis Woodhill at Real Clear Markets titled CBO Promotes a Stimulus Fantasy.
“The striking thing about the CBO analysis is that it is “reality proof.” Rather than presenting evidence that “stimulus” works, the CBO employed economic models that assume that “stimulus” works. As a result… the CBO’s calculations would always show that “stimulus” worked exactly as intended.
To estimate the impact of stimulus upon 2Q2010 GDP and employment, the CBO applied “output multipliers” to the reported expenditures in eight different categories. Their calculations did not include any actual economic data.. (emphasis mine).”
In essence the support for the idea that the jobless create the jobs comes from the same place that told us how many jobs were saved instead of created, it’s all a bunch of bullspin.
Even the great George Orwell, (who in political terms was a democratic socialist) would blush at how the Paradox of Thrift has become the Paradox of Working.
I guess we can add the “Jobless Create Jobs” meme to the Orwell Ministry of Truth slogans: “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery” and “Ignorance is Strength.”
Somehow that last one seems apropos.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article should be construed as a personal recommendation or investment advice. Nor should anything in this article be construed as an offer, or a solicitation of an offer, to sell or buy any particular investment security. Investors should conduct their own due diligence and seek the advice of a financial and/or investment professional before making any investment decisions.