James Galbraith has a very interesting idea for how we can help the economy and create jobs without spending money (though he does think spending money is the right course). Galbraith says we need to shrink the labor force by lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 55, as well as temporarily removing the early retirement age, which will allow people to retire earlier. Add in more funding for college, and you’ve reduced the work force and lowered unemployment, while providing substantial benefits through programs that we all know work well. Getting on to why the government needs to still actually spend money, Galbraith writes:
But with work to do and people to do it, the government should spend more. States and localities could hire teachers, teachers’ aides, doctors and nurses, fire and police, librarians and park attendants and street cleaners. If they do not have the cash, the easy way to create jobs is for Washington to write checks. This is called “revenue sharing” and it was invented by President Richard Nixon.
Galbraith’s ideas represent three major prongs of progressive policy that has been pushed through legislation recently or is expected to be done soon. Health care reform briefly looked at, but did not include, lowering the age people were eligible for Medicare. While most expect Social Security “reform” will inevitably lead to a shrinking of the program, the best course would actually be to expand it in ways that help more people. And jobs bills before Congress – including one rejected yesterday by the Senate – have the opportunity to provide states with major funding to support the important work of fire fighters, teachers, police, and medical professionals. That is, the pieces of Galbraith’s plan aren’t outside the range of conversations going on in Washington. The problem is that these are not Serious ideas held by Serious people, only by dirty hippies and accomplished economists with an honest understanding of the crisis our country is in. Conventional Wisdom says these are Unserious ideas and so I don’t have any hope that we’ll get this sort of smart, progressive, policy making out of decision-makers in Washington.