I suspect we’re going to be hearing a lot more of this sort of thing in the weeks to come:
Democrat Ben Nelson, a Senator from Nebraska, said the slumping economy and rising joblessness will be factors as Congress considers climate change and health care legislation. They are also driving concerns about the budget deficit, which widened to a record $1.42 trillion in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, he said.
“When the economy’s not strong there’s a lot of interest in controlling spending,” Nelson said.
This really makes no sense. If Nelson thinks the health care and climate legislation before congress would have a ruinous economic impact or something, then of course he shouldn’t vote for either bill. But that’s independent of the current state of the labor market. In reality, neither bill will have much of any impact on a 12-18 month time horizon since their provisions take time to phase-in. Both are aimed at long-term problems—the economic devastation wreaked by an out-of-control health care system and the environmental devastation wreaked by out-of-control greenhouse gas pollution. There’s never a perfect day to tackle a long-run problem, but delaying action doesn’t help the economy in the short-run and only makes it harder to tackle the problem.
On controlling spending, this is nuts. With the economy weak Nelson wants to do . . . what? Lay off teachers? Halt infrastructure projects? Make sure that kids whose parents are unemployed end up malnourished? The economy is suffering from a catastrophic collapse in overall spending with households, businesses, states, and municipalities all pulling back. If the federal government pulls back too we’re going to go down the drain.