Those of you past a certain age may remember the old Art Linkletter show “Kids Say the Darndest [sic] Things.” The one I still remember was when Linkletter asked a little boy if he looked like his daddy. “No,” replied the boy innocently, “I look like the mailman.”
Well, adults say the darnedest things, too. Sometimes they give us a window into their egos or their ignorance. Sometimes their comments contain important truths. Other times, they don’t even make sense. Let me give you an example of each kind of statement, starting with an example of the latter.
Many journalists have dutifully reported that the latest Greek bailout will reduce Greece’s national debt to a “sustainable” level of 120 percent of GDP (from over 164 percent today) by the year 2020. The problem is, they never explain how Greece will be sustained through the next eight years of “unsustainable” debt levels until the level supposedly becomes sustainable. Sustaining the unsustainable for eight years is quite a trick!
At the opposite pole from such unthinking fatuity is a statement of blazing clarity made by Rick Santorum during a recent GOP debate. With refreshing candor, Santorum stated to a nationwide audience, “I voted for that [No Child Left Behind Act]; it was against the principles I believe in ... and I made a mistake.” Politics is known as a business where principles routinely fall by the wayside, but rare indeed is the politician who admits to compromising principles.
As an example of a statement that displays a disturbing ignorance of elementary economic rationality, President Obama’s friend and adviser, Valerie Jarrett, recently asserted that unemployment payments are economically beneficial, because “people who receive that unemployment check go out and spend it and help stimulate the economy.” Those who advance this theory never explain how prosperity can improve from putting more money into circulation without any additional goods or services being produced. If the key to economic progress is more money in circulation, then let Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke rain money down us from the figurative helicopter to which he once alluded. In real life, boosting prosperity is not that simple.