Patriots: For over 25 years, your generosity has made it possible to offer The Patriot Post without a subscription fee to military personnel, students, and those with limited means. Please support the 2022 Independence Day Campaign today.

Ben Shapiro / February 18, 2009

Obama’s Stimulus Creates Useless Jobs

There’s one reason, and one reason only, that President Barack Obama’s “stimulus” passed so swiftly through Congress: Most Americans are worried about their jobs. And Barack Obama promises to save or create four million jobs. Even Obama’s most ardent opponents embrace the “make jobs” programs embedded in the stimulus. “Construction projects that put people to work, that fits the bill,” Sarah Palin told Greta Van Susteran of Fox News. “But these big, huge, expanded social programs … that’s not right, that’s not fair.”

Neither Republicans nor Democrats get it. The problem isn’t just the pork barrel social welfare spending. It’s not merely the redistributionist scheme disguised as “tax cuts.” The public relations backbone of this bill – government spending on our nation’s “crumbling infrastructure” – is misguided. While the country’s infrastructure may need revamping, this sort of spending will not stimulate the economy. It will not create the kind of jobs Americans need.

When politicians embrace government “make jobs” programs, they demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of employment in the economy. The goal of a thriving economy isn’t full employment – it’s raising the standard of living. Employment rate means nothing if the jobs it measures do not create wealth for the economy. During the Great Depression (1930-1940), the United States had an average unemployment rate of almost 18 percent; the USSR, by contrast, had “full employment.” And yet when the Oscar-nominated movie “The Grapes of Wrath,” chronicling the Great Depression, premiered in 1941, the USSR banned the movie for the simple reason that the poverty-stricken Joads owned a car – a luxury virtually no Soviet outside the government enjoyed. Full employment did not breed prosperity.

That’s because not all jobs are created equal. Valuable jobs provide products and services the free market supports; useless jobs provide products and services the free market would not support. Valuable jobs provide products and services that enrich quality of life, making it cheaper to live better; useless jobs provide products and services that have minor impact on quality of life.

Here’s the magic of private sector jobs. Imagine Bill owns a fruit stand. He sells his fruit for $2 per pound. Herman sees that Bill is doing well, and decides to open a fruit stand of his own. He figures he can undercut Bill and live on less of a profit margin, so he sells his fruit at $1 per pound. Pretty soon, Herman runs Bill out of business. It’s tough for Bill. But meanwhile, customers are spending $1 less for their fruit than they were. They’re spending that extra money at Bob’s clothing store, keeping Bob employed – and Bob can now hire Bill. The bottom line is this: The power of free enterprise creates competition that raises production, lowers prices, and makes lives better for consumers and producers. And that’s true even if employment declines in the fruit stand business.

Now let’s look at government jobs. Imagine Cool Hand Luke works for the government as a menial laborer. He builds roads in New York. People don’t choose to pay Cool Hand Luke – the government forces them to pay his salary. Now, certain people in New York may benefit from the new road. But they would rather have spent their cash on a new car, or a new computer, or a new business. And the people who live in California, who are also paying Cool Hand Luke, get nothing for their money. Their quality of life is not improved one iota. The bottom line is this: The government can always provide employment, but that employment will not benefit the public nearly as much as a private sector job would.

Americans instinctively understand that quality of life matters far more than employment rate – and that only valuable jobs increase quality of life. That is why Americans oppose Obama’s “stimulus” package. According to the latest Rasmussen poll, 53 percent of Americans think the “stimulus” will either fail to stimulate or actually hurt the economy. Unsurprisingly, the only sector of the American economy that overwhelmingly supports the stimulus plan is government employees, by a margin of 49 percent to 24 percent.

And yet our politicians think they can appease us by offering us useless jobs. They think investment bankers will be happy to staff the bureaucracy at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They believe Americans will be glad to subsidize Caterpillar Inc. employees, rather than putting that cash in their own checking accounts.

Obama might prevent rising unemployment. After all, so did President Jimmy Carter. But he’ll do so at the cost of private sector employment. Americans will pay the price in standard of living – but at least they can say they have a job, no matter how useless.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC. 

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2022 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.