Beginning with the very first policy-oriented post on this blog, I’ve been criticizing Keynesian economics, usually with lots of cheering and support from the GOP. Indeed, more than 98 percent of Republicans in the House and Senate voted against Obama’s so-called stimulus.
They understood – or at least seemed to understand – that you don’t create jobs by diverting money from the private sector so it can be spent by politicians in Washington.
And they have the satisfaction of seeing history justify their votes. Unemployment rose after the faux stimulus was enacted and the joblessness rate has stayed above 8 percent.
But some Republicans are now sounding like born-again Keynesians. They object to the automatic budget savings – known as sequestration – that are scheduled to take effect next year, and they are warning that less government spending means fewer jobs. Here’s a small sampling of their statements.
- Cong. Rob Bishop of Utah claims a sequester will “destroy jobs.”
- Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi asserts that “up to 1 million jobs are at risk.”
- Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia says that sequestration is “putting hundreds of thousands of jobs in my state at risk.”
I would have no objection to these lawmakers arguing against a sequester if they based their concerns on national security, even if I think those concerns are exaggerated.
And I would understand if they objected to a sequester because defense is disproportionately impacted (the Pentagon accounts for only about one-fourth of the budget, yet it absorbs one-half of the sequester).
And I wouldn’t even complain if they claimed that a sequester is painful because of short-term economic dislocation and transition costs. Heck, I even said that might be a legitimate excuse when Mitt Romney said something that sounded suspiciously Keynesian.
But it doesn’t seem like those caveats apply.
Let’s close with some good news and bad news. The good news is that I don’t actually think any of the anti-sequestration lawmakers are genuine Keynesians.
The bad news is that they are genuine politicians, so they think there is nothing wrong with using the coercive power of government to take as much from the rest of the country as possible and redistribute those resources to their states or districts.
They may vaguely understand that big government undermines economic performance, but that’s a secondary concern. They’re main goal is buying votes with other people’s money.