Savannah Guthrie is awfully cute. Smart, too. Not as cute or smart as my missus (by a long shot — dont try to cause trouble), but still.
Last Thursday, on Guthries second-to-last day on MSNBCs The Daily Rundown (shes moving to NBCs 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 Ive wanted to ask:
Isnt the problem here, Jim, that theres really no cushion? The Fed apparently has done what its prepared to do to spur on the economy. Theres no policy response. Congress isnt 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 were 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 were 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.
And how much more painful could it possibly be for us were Uncle Sam not to borrow trillions more dollars? After all, well have to pay back with interest those loans used to create jobs that dont 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?