Utopian Thinking on Jobs and Unemployment at the Washington Post

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Sunday, 16 January 2011 09:11

Fox on 15th went Utopian on its readers today, ridiculing the suggestion by James Galbraith to temporarily lower the age at which workers can receive full Social Security benefits to 62. The plan, which also was put forward in a bill by Representative Dennis Kucinich, would pull some number of older workers out of the labor force and thereby create more jobs for unemployed younger workers.

The Post disses the plan. In addition to telling readers that it baffled financial journalists (are financial journalists really so thick that they had problems understanding this one?) it goes on:

"The proposals echo a familiar, and questionable, notion on the left: that we should find ways to better parcel out existing jobs. It's the same logic that leads some countries to consider cutting the number of hours or days someone can work each week, so that more people can share the work pool. In reality, the true challenge is to figure out how to create new jobs."

This one really is too delicious to believe that it actually appeared in print. Let's go in order.

The first part describes the idea that we might want to redistribute work by cutting the number of hours each person works as a "notion on the left." Wow, according to the Washington Post, Germany's Christian Democratic government is now on the left. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a big supporter of the country's work sharing program, although the idea originated with a Social Democratic minister in the previous unity government. These stupid leftists think they should be happy just because Germany's unemployment rate is just 6.7 percent, in spite of the fact that its GDP has taken a bigger hit than the U.S. in this downturn. In fact, many other countries across the OECD also have work sharing policies and most of these countries are not run by politicians who are viewed as leftists by anyone other than the Washington Post.

Okay, now for part II: "In reality, the true challenge is to figure out how to create new jobs." Oh yeah! And, let's see what are the ideas that the Washington Post has for putting 15 million people back to work. Hmmmm, I looked through the rest of the Outlook section, I didn't see any. I looked through the rest of the paper, and yesterday's too, didn't see any there either. In fact, I did a search of the paper over the last two months and I can't say that I saw anything that resembled a proposal to put 15 million people back to work. A naive reader might think that the Washington Post, and the group of policy wonks it considers respectable, just don't have ideas for creating "new jobs" and putting 15 million people back to work.

It sure would be wonderful if these respectable people did rise to the "true challenge" and come up with a way to put millions of people back to work, but they seem to be spending most of their time thinking of ways to reduce the deficit. It appears that our choices at the moment might be sharing the available work or having near double-digit unemployment.

The Post concludes by telling readers:

"sometimes the conventional wisdom is not only conventional, but wise as well."

That might be true, but this doesn't seem like one of those times.