It’s becoming fashionable for some politicians to portray themselves as “deficit hawks.” This sounds nice: getting tough on excessive indebtedness, like getting tough on crime. And as we get closer to the midterm elections, more and more candidates may try to wrap themselves in the attractive packaging of hawkishness. That’s where good journalists need to step in.
As Gov. Rendell of Pennsylvania pointed out on the PBS NewsHour, if the public is properly informed it will see how wrong this is. Cutting government spending during a recession is no way to create or save the jobs needed to pull us out of that recession. For example, unemployment insurance payments immediately stimulate the economy because they are spent quickly, and that helps create or save jobs. And Rendell feels it is possible to do two things at the same time: spend more to create jobs and also work on a long-term plan for deficit reduction. PBS did the right thing by interviewing Rendell and giving him the opportunity to present sensible ideas.
Columnists such as Paul Krugman do a good job of explaining how it would be madness to cut off unemployment benefits and other government spending during a recession that is far from over. But columnists are not enough. We need news media to do more, especially mass media such as television news. They need to explain to the public how economies really work, and what the real consequences would be of abandoning job creation at this crucial moment. News organizations need to interview reputable, nonpolitical experts and create a forum for a thoughtful, politics-free debate on what really happens when we continue or abandon economic stimulation. Only then can voters make informed choices and avoid being conned by the hawks.
(Photo: City of Orange Beach)