The Long and the Short

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For all the hand-wringing about the deficit and the jobs picture, the correct solution on the merits is pretty clear. You need legislation to make short-term deficits bigger and long-term deficits smaller. As David Leonhardt says:

As a result, Congress does not have to choose between the problems. It can pass the jobs bill, putting people back to work, and even pass a separate bill to help struggling states. History has shown that state aid, which prevents layoffs of teachers, emergency medical technicians and other workers, is the single most effective form of stimulus.

But this new spending needs to be accompanied by something more credible than Augustine-like vows of future parsimony. It should be paired with substantive cuts to continuing policies, like subsidies for oil companies and agribusinesses, outdated weapons systems, NASA’s moon program and at least some Bush tax cuts, among many other things.

This is clearly correct, but our frustratingly clunky political system is almost certainly not going to deliver it. Instead we’ll get far too little of needed short-term aid, and also far too little of enduring cuts to useless programs.