In advocating for a new "jobs program," Krugman first gives his pat answer for funding the whole affair:
(D)espite years of warnings from the usual suspects about the dangers of deficits and debt, our government can borrow at incredibly low interest rates — interest rates on inflation-protected U.S. bonds are actually negative, so investors are paying our government to make use of their money. And don’t tell me that markets may suddenly turn on us. Remember, the U.S. government can’t run out of cash (it prints the stuff), so the worst that could happen would be a fall in the dollar, which wouldn’t be a terrible thing and might actually help the economy.In other words, we should not worry about it, as the government can inflate away the debt, and that is a good thing. But there is another issue that Krugman ignores, and that is why there would be the need for a "job" at all. (In other words, just borrow the money and give it directly to anyone who is unemployed.) Hear me out on this.
(L)ong-term unemployment remains at levels not seen since the Great Depression: as of October, 4.9 million Americans had been unemployed for more than six months, and 3.6 million had been out of work for more than a year.
When you see numbers like those, bear in mind that we’re looking at millions of human tragedies: at individuals and families whose lives are falling apart because they can’t find work, at savings consumed, homes lost and dreams destroyed. And the longer this goes on, the bigger the tragedy.
There are also huge dollars-and-cents costs to our unmet jobs crisis. When willing workers endure forced idleness society as a whole suffers from the waste of their efforts and talents. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that what we are actually producing falls short of what we could and should be producing by around 6 percent of G.D.P., or $900 billion a year.
He is correct in his assessment of the human tragedy, but simple spending with government "creating new jobs" is pretty meaningless. First and most important, to a Keynesian, a "job" is important because it is a source of income. People work in order to earn money so that they can consume. Yet, in the real world, a job is a mechanism through which someone produces something that meets the needs of others, and for which that person is compensated.
Keynesian theory separates production and consumption, as though they were two separate and unrelated things. Goods are randomly produced and then one only can hope there is enough money floating around to allow people to purchase those goods and clear the shelves so the circular process can continue. There is nothing purposeful about it; this is just a description of a big production/consumption circle with the chief end of consumption being the creation of an opportunity for more production (so that people can earn incomes and buy more goods so they can support their jobs).
Second, a real economy (as opposed to what Peter Schiff calls our "phony economy") creates employment opportunities out of the natural progression of economic growth. People in a real economy do not have to implore politicians to borrow a few hundred billion dollars to employ people in a new bureaucracy and call it "job creation" or "putting America back to work."
If Krugman is going to write about the "forgotten millions," perhaps he needs to recall those millions of tax-and-borrowed dollars that were spent yesterday to employ people for a while so that the president could be seen as enabling a fake recovery. For that matter, the mirage of recovery continues. At the present time, the government is borrowing 46 cents of every dollar spent (according to the Congressional Budget Office), and the upshot has been a huge increase in...government jobs.
What Krugman apparently wants is for that rate of borrowing to increase so that we can turn more and more Americans into bureaucrats. Not that bureaucrats produce anything, but I guess they can spend and spend. So, if this is going to be our "employment" future, why not just print a bunch of money, load it into helicopters and dump it. The effect on the economy would be about the same as "creating" fake government occupations.