The NYT Doesn't Know That We Have 15 Million People Unemployed

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Saturday, 13 November 2010 18:19

That is the only thing that readers can conclude from its heroic efforts to balance the budget in 2030. This exercise is utterly mind-boggling. We have more than 25 million people unemployed, underemployed, or who have given up work altogether. This is a real crisis. Furthermore, it is worth noting that these people are largely suffering as a result of the incompetence of the budget balancers. (The budget balancers were the same people who dominated economic debate in the years before the crash and could did not see the $8 trillion housing bubble that wrecked the economy and gave us the huge deficits that now have them so obsessed.)

Obviously it is politically popular in Washington to be obsessed by the deficit, but we are supposed to have an independent press in this country. It is utterly loony to be focused on the projected deficit in 2030, when we have tens of millions of people who are seeing their lives ruined today by the downturn. This is like debating the colors to paint the classrooms when the school is on fire with the students still inside. Given economic reality, it would make far more sense to use the effort devoted to construct an elaborate game like this to designing a route toward restoring full employment.

It would also be worth pointing out to readers and participants in the NYT game that the long-term deficit is 100 percent a health care story. If the United States paid the same amount per person for health care as any of the 35 countries with longer life expectancies, we would be looking at huge budget surpluses for the indefinite future. Pointing out this simple fact would at least get people to focus on the real long-term problem facing the country: a broken health care system.