Paul Jacob

Savannah Guthrie is awfully cute. Smart, too. Not as cute or smart as my missus (by a long shot — don’t try to cause trouble), but still.

Last Thursday, on Guthrie’s second-to-last day on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown (she’s moving to NBC’s Today Show), she listened to Jim Tankersley of National Journal blame the frighteningly anemic “job numbers” on high gas prices and the spate of tornadoes “playing together to slow down manufacturing activity, slow down hiring.” Then, she asked the question that I’ve wanted to ask:

Isn’t the problem here, Jim, that there’s really no cushion? The Fed apparently has done what it’s prepared to do to spur on the economy. There’s no policy response. Congress isn’t going to spend any more money to create jobs. So whatever happens, Americans are in a position of just gutting it out.

Yes, after the Fed has showered its printing presses on banks and other businesses to the tune of many trillions, and years after the stimulus was supposed to prevent us from ever reaching 9 percent unemployment, that very 9 percent level was crossed for the second time on this double-dip ride, and we’re now left to gut it out by ourselves. Alone, if you think in terms of government; together, if you think in terms of shared condition.

But look on the bright side. If Savannah is correct, the folks in Washington might stop helping us so much.

What we’re talking about here — “gutting it out” — could, alternatively, be called “freedom.” Left to our own devices, without government bailouts and jobs programs and subsidies and assorted fine-tuning, we Americans can still dream and build and innovate and grow, getting better each year at producing the goods and services that we each need to live our lives and pursue our own happiness.

Can’t we?

And how much more painful could it possibly be for us were Uncle Sam not to borrow trillions more dollars? After all, we’ll have to pay back with interest those loans used to “create jobs” that don’t seem to actually get created. Or, if created, prove unsustainable. Should we have expected that borrowing money to hire people for non-productive, make-work jobs would lead ineluctably to spectacular economic success?

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.