Killing Jobs, Killing People

Steven Pearlstein has a great column on the right’s obsessive use of the phrase “job killing”:

What’s particularly noteworthy about this fixation with “job killing” is that it stands in such contrast to the complete lack of concern about policies that kill people rather than jobs. Repealing health-care reform, for instance, would inevitably lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths each year because of an inability to get medical care.

Although lack of effective regulation led directly to the deaths of 78 coal miners last year in West Virginia, Republicans continue to insist that any reform of mine safety laws is bad for miners’ employment.

Republicans also continue to oppose food safety legislation that could save the lives of hundreds of Americans killed each year by contaminated food, just as they oppose any regulation that would effectively keep assault weapons out of the hands of convicted criminals and narco-terrorists who kill thousands of innocent victims on both sides of the Rio Grande.

One reason I’m increasingly convinced that liberals need to learn to talk about monetary policy is that this jobs talk is both very powerful and also quite misguided. For any given state of US public policy, there’s going to be some level of “full employment.” That doesn’t mean no unemployment. It means that efforts to stoke further reductions in unemployment through monetary expansion will lead to accelerating inflation. Once you’re at full employment, to achieve further increases in national output you need to make more growth-friendly public policies. And in general, growth-friendly policies are a good thing to adopt, though I personally prefer to think of growth-friendly policies that don’t lead to dead miners.


But suppose the economy is operating below potential. Suppose 9.4 percent of your workforce doesn’t have a job. Suppose a rising number of able-bodied adults aren’t even in the labor force. Suppose many of your part time workers would like full-time work. Well in that case you don’t need to run around being paranoid about how many people would have jobs in the hypothetical scenario where the economy’s running at full-tilt. You just need to step on the gas!