Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Walk like a New Dealer

(offensive version of this title: Walk like FDR)

Another, wait for it... Slate article, this time about Obama's Economic Stimulus Package. According to the figures from the Congressional Budget Office (as I've seen reported at least), only half of the hundreds of billions to be spent will be spent in the next two years; in the article Tim Noah (J-fave) points out that only one tenth of it will be spent during the current fiscal year (of which over half is still left). And supposedly, about one eighth will go to corporate goodies that do nothing for the economy (much less the Johanna the Average Person). (From Noah: "$212 billion [of the $816 billion plan] will be given out as tax cuts (of which close to half are corporate goodies of dubious value to economic recovery).)

Noah compares this to FDR's administration, and notes that he created in months the number of jobs Obama proposes to create in years, by directly contracting people in Public Works rather than through 3rd party (private) contracts -- that is, he didn't outsource, as Obama plans to. I'm sure there are good arguments for outsourcing* -- or at least politically rational ones -- but Noah's conclusion seems to be that effectiveness is not one of these arguments (with which I'd tend to agree). Noah observes that the program listed as an example of why the government must go slowly and carefully here is a program loaning money to auto companies for energy efficient vehicles, of which no money has been spent; Noah hypothesizes this is an example of why this is not the time to privately subcontract the work of creating jobs.

Considering the Republican/Conservative/Libertarian orthodoxy that FDR a) only incidentally helped end the recession, b) FDR didn't really affect the Depression, or c) FDR prolonged the Depression through his programs that didn't work such as Public Works representing counterproductive government intervention, I can't imagine, even in these more pro-government-intervention times that it would be terribly politically feasible for Obama to directly contract a bunch of Americans for Public Works projects as Employees of the United States Government. I don't even really blame him, politically. But it rather seems like "business as usual" in that, if one agrees with the Slate analysis or the proposition that FDR helped end the Depression, it presents "business as usual" and "non-change that we cannot believe in" to settle for an approach that will be inefficient and ineffective because an effective solution is a politically treacherous one.

* Of no import whatsoever, I note here that from my understanding, "terceirização" is the Brazilian Portuguese term for outsourcing/subcontracting. (Lit. "thirdization")

1 comment:

Daktari said...

I ate too much spaghetti for dinner and find myself totally incapable of responding to this post with any sort of coherent commentary, and yet, despite this, feel compelled to respond thusly.