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Fool Rushes In

What I know about economics would fit on a matchbook. So when it comes to economic issues my instincts are probably not worth much, and my analysis is worth less. But that's never stopped me before. So . . .

I think this stimulus package (and can we please, God, find a different phrase?) is doing two different things, both of which need to be done, but which are not as directly connected as we're supposed to believe. 1) It's meant to pump money into the economy by the shortest route available. 2) It's meant to improve the power grid, the roads and bridges and school buildings. The so-called infrastructure.

The problem is that this isn't 1933. If you want your infrastructure improved you don't hire a million guys with shovels, you hire ten thousand guys with bulldozers. You really want Tom Joad building your power grid with a pickaxe on his shoulder and a piece of hay stuck in his teeth? I kind of think we may need non-hobo labor for most of this stuff.

So I doubt all this infra-restructuring will create today's randomly-assigned-number of jobs. I think we need the infra-restructuring, but I don't think it's a panicky, need-it-this-very-minute thing because it's not going to quickly translate into jobs. It may not create jobs until we're clear out the other end of this recession/depression. So maybe we should take a few weeks to actually think it over.

If what you really want is to pump money into the economy, fine, cancel payroll taxes for a period of time. Or cancel it on a means-tested basis so that struggling families would benefit. A huge percentage of that money would go straight back into the economy for fast food, Wal-Mart socks, rent, a new muffler, and glasses for the kids. Boom! Pass the legislation next week, people could be spending the money by Valentine's day.

While you're at it, cancel the employer contribution for a period of six months, make it cheaper for employers to keep workers on salary. No fuss, no muss, no detail, no new paperwork, no new bureaucracy.

The following blogs have been useful in helping me think about this, but should not be held directly responsible for my no-doubt mangled conclusions: The Glittering Eye, Not a Potted Plant, Our Better History and Rightwing Nuthouse.

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“Fool Rushes In”

  1. OpenID kevinrobinson Says:

    The thing with infrastructure projects is that they hire American workers. Even if it's 30K instead of 1 million, you're still employing a lot more tool pushers than you were before. Those guys buy cars, houses, etc. And at the end of the day you have better bridges, roads, power grids, etc.

    I'm going to have to look for the study, but I recall reading that infrastructure projects have a higher multiplier effect than direct stimulous checks. Meaning the infrasctructure dollar that gets spent on the worker, then gets re-spent on the house/car/food/etc., which then gets re-spent on so forth and so on.

  2. Blogger Callimachus Says:

    Dave Shuler's observation that building more highways requires not only gasoline but asphalt, both of which come out of the ground inhabited by our not-such-friends around the Persian Gulf, was a telling point for me.

    Maybe "stimulus" is the right idea after all. Good times or bad -- especially bad -- people will need and want sex. And they'll pay for it.

    My experience (primarily based on the incontrovertible evidence of trackbacks from my own Web pages) is that the Middle East is home to some of the most oversexed, underserved cultures on earth. We got it. They want it. Sell it to them at a price! Get more Americans working in Internet porn. It's the patriotic way to kill two birds with one stone.

  3. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    Cal:
    Our finest minds are already at work on this. It seems we will soon have 3-D porn. The combination of breast-enlargement technology and 3-D will leave the Germans, East Europeans and Thai'sfar behind.

    And I hope you appreciate the fact that I did not say "cutting edge breast-enhancement technology."

  4. Blogger Ruth Anne Adams Says:

    Did you realize that Jonah Goldberg proposed the same thing about 3 weeks ago?

  5. Blogger Callimachus Says:

    What, the porn-for-oil deal? Doesn't sound up his alley, but desperate times and all that.