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Government as a force for good

jumpjet's picture

There's a front-page thread on DailyKos right now (I know, I know) offering suggestions for the "jobs summit" that Obama suddenly wants to hold. One, in particular, struck me pleasantly (emphasis mine).

4. Don't be afraid to do it yourself.
If you can't find a small business to do something, don't sweat it. Do it yourself. Grab people off the streets and out of the 7/11 parking lot. Put them to work. Give them training. Give them encouragement to dream up their first company and take this mess off your hands as fast as possible. Be a school, be an incubator, be America. And hey, still don't hire the big guys. Because the one thing that kills small business like nothing else is big business. You want to come out of this with the next generation of American companies ready to take on the world, not with the last generation only fatter.

It reminded me of a blog here from a few months back that I also really liked, about Hyman Minsky's ideas for economic stimulus, about the government combatting a recession by hiring the unemployed directly, becoming the "employer of last resort."

It was and remains one of the best ideas I've ever heard, because it resonates powerfully with my belief that government can be a powerful force for good. That idea is soaked into just about every policy proposal of boilerplate liberalism, but it's hard to display it more boldly than the government giving jobs to the jobless.

Granted, government can do horrible things as well, and the United States government does plenty of that. But in an ostensibly representative democracy like ours, I think it's completely natural and fitting that government work to directly benefit its citizens. And citizens in turn should expect their government to help them. Why shouldn't it? If you believe your civics class, the government in the United States is us. 'We the People,' and all that. So why shouldn't our government that we empower be extensively active in promoting our well-being?

Government creating jobs directly is an affirmation that the government can do good for the people, and in fact should do good.

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Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

That's what this article by Timothy Noah in Slate says. This site more or less agrees, give or take half a mil:

Between November 1 [1933], when the program was announced, and December 15, approximately three and a half million workers were placed on hastily constructed federal projects.

(I have no idea what that site bases its figures on.)

Given that it would take $2.2 trillion (as of January, 2009) over five years to bring our infrastructure into a state of good repair, I'd think there would be plenty to do, in terms of public works.

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

I can't believe all the people who are asking to give Obama more time. Franklin Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and so many others moved at such a faster clip. Obama doesn't act because he doesn't want to act.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

He's just acting in a way that is usually most beneficial to banksters. Look how he's been such an integral figure in bailing out the banksters.

Its not that Dems/Obama are failing to act and liberals need to stop saying that much. They are doing what they deem most important. Bank bailouts is priority number one.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

That's an important distinction. Obama is failing your metrics because his priorities are different.

Not many people I know spent more time from 2003-2007 trying to help the Dems as much as I did so it pains me to say this. Now that they have attained power, their priorities are clear. They are for the banksters and maintaining the Villages's revolving door.

The "weak Dem" talking point only serves to help the Dems. They are going to use the threat of the GOP and their current "weakness" to raise money. No, they aren't weak. They know what they are doing and what they are doing is harmful. They are actively pushing bad policy that hurts the majority of us. We need to start using that analysis. The Dems are *actively* harming us. On fucking purpose!

Submitted by lambert on

Don't accept the narrative of Democratic weakness. We started using that tool in 2003, and by now we should know it's no good -- even if it is an easy trope to write, and an easy way to manufacture outrage.

Submitted by hipparchia on

from me too

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

As long as the Democrats' faults are identified and ruthlessly exploited. This is one instance where I'm quite happy to use any stick to beat a dog.

Submitted by lambert on

Never, never, never, NEVER -- and by "never," I mean NEVER -- be happy with incorrect or corrupt analysis because it helps you make a political point. The narrative you tell will affect the actions you take. If the model you build of the Dems is that they are weak, when in fact, they are corrupt, then at some point you will end up making strategic errors because you have not understood your enemy. The oligarchs and the banksters can afford to maintain a very expensive system of bullshit and lies. Even if it such a system did not lead us into bad decision making, we couldn't afford such a system, because we're never going to have as much money. Fortunately, although the truth is more difficult to acquire it is easier to maintain...

So, please, do not ever use "any stick to beat a dog." It is moderated for, with reason.

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

Precision is key. I should never let my hate cloud my accuracy. I'd rather like to avoid losing in the future.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

The "weak" narrative is actually harmful to liberalism. The Dems are acting as conservatives willingly. They aren't in any way trying to be liberals, if they were we'd have already had a single-payer bill passed and signed, not to mention a housing solution and a jobs program. The weak narrative allows them to be victims--liberal victims--when they are no such thing. That harms liberalism in that it allows conservatives to be called liberals and liberal ideas are discredited when its actually failed conservative ideas causing the problems.

Personally, I'm willing to forgive an ignorant (passive) person of their harms much more so than an active agent. If we want to bring the Dems to accountability, we have to start by admitting the truth of what's going on: they are actively screwing us over.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

there are rumors that sending more troops to Afghanistan is Obama's idea of a stimulus. I would not put it past him.

as I said before, spend 2010 looking for third party candidates who are credible. Some where out there is another Bernie Sanders.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

We know where the current manifestation of the Democratic Party lies when it comes to those two. So it goes.

There are plenty of Bernie Sanderses out there. Few of them actually want to deal with the BS that is modern campaigning though.