A Further Response to UJ

I responded to part of UJ’s comment below, but his last question deserves a longer, more thoughtful response than a “reply” allows.

I’m not sure that the New Deal made the Great Depression end any sooner; some historians think the Great Depression really didn’t end in America until World War II. (Indeed, some people were afraid that, after the War ended, the country would sink back into depression again.) I do think, however, that some of the programs that were adopted as part of the New Deal (like Social Security) and the public works that were created during the New Deal (like the TVA and the WPA, which built the federal courthouse here in Columbus and many other public buildings across the country) were useful and necessary. I also think FDR did a good job of trying to instill and sustain hope in many people who were desperate and downtrodden, and that is an extremely important part of political leadership. Whether the New Deal programs worked or not, they helped to make people believe that the government cared. In that sense, the New Deal programs probably helped America avoid some of the political upheavals that occurred in Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and other countries.

So yes, if I had lived during the Great Depression and been out of a job, I would have wanted an activist President like FDR. At the same time, I think you can give hope without indulging in the kind of runaway deficit spending we are now seeing. If we could be assured that the vast majority of the federal spending in the stimulus package would be devoted to public works projects that would endure for generations, it would be one thing. That is not what is happening, however. Instead, it is being frittered away on wasteful political pet projects and funding activities that could, and should, be financed by local governments — like the two local traffic projects in New Albany or further improvements to the ridiculous boondoggle that is the John Murtha Airport. I object to a pointless expenditure of taxpayer funds that achieves nothing lasting — except increasing the national debt and saddling future federal budgets with enormous “debt service” line items.

Offered Without (Much) Comment

This editorial notes that the latest estimate increases the budget deficit to $1.8 trillion, which is four times the size of the largest Bush-era deficit. The size of the deficit will significantly increase the amount of interest payments that will have to be included in the budget going forward, eventually to the point of nearly $500 billion per year. People can make fun of economic conservatives who want a balanced budget as if they are benighted antiques, but wouldn’t we rather have that $500 billion going toward actual programs and services, instead of paying interest to the wealthy investors who have purchased the U.S. Treasury bills and notes that have been sold to finance that debt?