Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Dean Baker

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research

June 2nd, 2010 11:41 AM

Representative Jason Altmire: Job Killing Deficit Hawk

Former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was the object of considerable ridicule for his support of the infamous $400 million "Bridge to Nowhere." This played a big role in his defeat in the last election.

It is appropriate that members of Congress pay a price for their support of wasteful projects that serve narrow constituencies, but this is not a major source of harm to the country. The total amount of earmarked spending, like the Bridge to Nowhere," is less than 1 percent of the federal budget; and not all of this spending is wasteful.

By contrast, many members of Congress are doing far more damage to the country with their mindless pursuit of deficit reduction in the middle of the worst downturn in 70 years. This push for deficit reduction could do more damage to the economy and cost more jobs than 1,000 Bridges to Nowhere.

The basic story is straightforward and should be well known to anyone in a policy position. The collapse of the housing bubble reduced annual demand from the private sector by almost $1 trillion. Huge overbuilding of both residential and non-residential real estate led to a falloff in annual construction spending of close to $500 billion. The loss of more than $6 trillion of housing bubble wealth has forced consumers to cut back their annual consumption spending by close to $500 billion.

The only force that can replace this $1 trillion shortfall in demand is the federal government. The government can spend based on the confidence of the public in the long-term strength of the U.S. economy. This means that it can run large deficits with little fear of either the sort of investor panic that has recently afflicted the Greek economy or inflation.

With the unemployment rate near 10 percent and the vast amounts of idle capacity almost everywhere, we have more to fear from deflation than inflation. All measures show that inflation is very low and falling, as would be expected in an economy with so much slack.

In spite of a situation that demands more government stimulus to boost the economy, deficit hawks in Congress are now demanding cuts in spending to reduce the size of the deficit. This effort will slow growth and throw people out of work. Therefore these deficit hawks deserve serious ridicule for doing so much harm to workers and their families.

Today's object of special ridicule is Pennsylvania Congressman Jason Altmire. Mr. Altmire insisted on paring back a package of unemployment benefits and aid to deficit strapped state governments. Altmire told the Washington Post: "We've hit the wall. We've come to the tipping point where we're not going to do anymore... I think the case can be made that there are still more people who need jobs than there are jobs available. ... But what's the limit?"

That's pretty good. The unemployment rate is at 9.9 percent. Prior to the recession, unemployment had not been this high in 27 years, and Mr. Altmire thinks: "the case can be made that there are still more people who need jobs than there are jobs available."

This is not a marginal call. It's kind of like saying that AIG may have become somewhat over-extended. Unfortunately, Mr. Altmire has apparently left planet earth and decided that his top priority is reducing the size of a supplemental appropriations bill.

Altmire and his collaborators managed to squeeze $30 billion out of the bill. If we follow the methodology used in a paper written by Obama administration economists Christine Romer and Jared Bernstein, Altmire's cuts will reduce growth by roughly $50 billion. This will throw more than 300,000 people out of work.

That's a great thing for members of Congress to do -- throw people out of work. It really helps their children also. Mr. Altmire can explain to the kids whose parents are forced to give up their homes that they will have a lower interest burden on the debt (which is not even true). The kids will no doubt thank Mr. Altmire for his consideration.

In fairness, Representative Altmire probably doesn't know squat about the economy. He probably just takes his cue from wealthy friends who enjoy muttering about "fiscal responsibility" when the issue is items like unemployment benefits and aid to state and local governments.

But, ignorance is not much of an excuse when you are crafting economic policy. Because of Mr. Altmire's blind pursuit of deficit reduction, hundreds of thousands of people will suffer needlessly and the nation as a whole will see growth curtailed. If ridicule were proportional to the damage done by their policies, given the treatment of Senator Stevens, we would have to start a new television network dedicated to this purpose to ensure that Representative Altmire received the proper level of ridicule.

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

If you have a moment today, I hope you can read the obituary for my father Francis (Frank) Moore, who died this past Saturday at the age of 92: Francis...

Apr 22nd
6:33 PM
Read More

My father, Francis (Frank) Moore, passed away this morning a few months shy if his 93rd birthday. He was a great dad I am blessed to have had him in my life. I...

Apr 20th
2:58 AM
Read More

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... www.theonion.com President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles