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?
Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama, with wide bipartisan support in Congress, intervened in the economy in a massive way. They bailed out companies, whole industries; they legislated massive reforms to several major sectors of the economy. And by sending rubber checks to state governments and to We, the People, they tried to convince us to go out and blow the money to stimulate business activity.
I say rubber checks, because while they didnt bounce upon deposit, they may well bounce in the future. After all, its not as if we wont be forced to pay the money back, plus interest. And, at that dread hour, the rubber may seem more like brick.
First, we were told by President Bush that the solution to our economic problems (and terrorism to boot) was to go out and shop until we drop. Then we were told by both Bush and his second incarnation, Obama, that the solution was for government to borrow or print trillions of dollars to, in effect, let politicians shop until we drop. (And tinker a tad, too.)
All to create jobs. Or — er, to save jobs.
Now the money is spent, the bills are coming due, and . . . surprise, surprise, we dont have the jobs. Seems the real-world is not controlled by some politicians speech or tap dance or Tweet about what he or she can do to create jobs . . . if they can only grab more money away from citizens who have jobs and are actually creating them. Or sink us further into debt.
Even President Obama finally admits as much, at least in the Times of London. In an op-ed jointly authored with British Prime Minister David Cameron, they wrote, Governments do not create jobs: bold people and innovative businesses do.
So, you and I and our over 300 million neighbors are left to gut it out. No complaints, here. Glad to call you neighbor. We can do this.
Yes, we can.