Friday, February 27, 2009

Government Spending Has Not Created a Single Job. Really?

I'm going to have to start writing my thoughts down sooner as I get into the habit of having a blog, but here's one absurdity for the blog.

In addressing Obama’s stimulus plans, Michael Steele, head of the Republican National Committee said, … first off the government doesn’t create jobs. Let’s get this notion out of our heads that the government creates jobs. Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job.” Bobby Jindal seemed to echo the same kind of silliness in responding to President Obama’s address to the nation.

Guess what: Some government spending creates jobs. In addition to Michael Steele’s own former job as Lt. Governor of Maryland and the huge number of public sector employees, government spending has created lots of private sector jobs. The only people who would deny it are right-wing ideologues. Fortunately for the Democrats, this seems to include the leadership of the Republican Party. (There is a much more sophisticated argument that could be made about the inefficiency of government spending in creating jobs, but that's not the argument we've been hearing.)

A few modest examples of government-spending that created jobs:

  • Al Gore notwithstanding, the US military funded the Arpanet, which later became the internet. It seems to me that creating that infrastructure did create one or two jobs that have lasted beyond the government funding. Ever hear of Google?Yahoo?Akamai? Amazon?

  • Although it may not be politically correct to use this example in the current political environment, has anyone ever heard of Lockheed Martin or Halliburton, both of whom have created a job or two from defense spending?

  • Similarly, would the same number of gas station jobs exist if the government had not funded the construction of roads and highways? There would probably be private roads, though fewer of them, and thus fewer jobs for gas station attendants and likely for auto companies and oil companies.

  • A more current example. Government funding of the Human Genome Project has led to lots of knowledge and technology. Companies were started to develop faster sequencing technologies to speed the completion of the HGP. Now, many companies using these technologies and greater knowledge of the human genome and genomics are creating jobs beyond the original funding.

I think the problem with Obama’s spending plan is that too much is directed to areas that do not represent the same kind of long-term investment that has produced significant numbers of jobs over time and too much to do things like resodding the national mall (Demopork is not necessarily any better than Repubopork just because it is sponsored by Democrats).

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