A prudent, sensible investment …

Here’s the latest from The New York Times’ Bob Herbert:

“More than 300 economists, including Robert Reich, the former labor secretary, have signed on to a public statement urging policy makers not to undercut any real chance at a recovery by focusing prematurely on deficit reduction. What are needed instead are prudent, sensible investments, especially in infrastructure, research and development, and green energy initiatives.

“The statement, released by the liberal Institute for America’s Future, noted that President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform would like to reduce the federal deficit to 3 percent of the gross domestic product by 2015. That’s not realistic. It’s not going to happen.
More important is the following point made by the institute in its statement:

– At the end of World War II, the U.S. was burdened with debt that totaled over 120 percent of G.D.P. But we made the investments vital to a new economy – the G.I. Bill, housing subsidies, the interstate highway system, the conversion of military plants, and the Marshall Plan. We ran annual deficits over most of the next three decades and the debt grew in absolute size, but the economy and the middle class grew faster. By 1980, the debt had been reduced to barely 30 percent of G.D.P.

“There is no doubt,” Mr. Herbert continues, “that the country, starved for revenues and still at war, will have to increase some taxes. Unnecessary spending should be attacked. But the nation is still in the throes of an economic crisis. Poverty is growing and the middle class is shrinking, and more than 20 million Americans are out of work or underemployed. We can pretend that all of this is not happening and that there won’t be grave consequences as a result. We can cling to the Ronald Reagan-George W. Bush fairy tale that handing over ever more riches to those who are already rich and powerful is the way to revitalize the American dream.

“Or we can take our cue from the best moments in American history, when the nation rolled up its sleeves and placed the interests of ordinary people at the top of its agenda.” –

We are reminded by Mr. Herbert’s last statement that it was the World War II generation that “rolled up its sleeves” when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Less than four years after that fateful date, that generation had faced up to, and defeated, two heavily-armed and well-disciplined war machines. There was no political posturing and no gravy trains. It was a concerted unselfish effort with “the interests of ordinary people at the top of its agenda.” The threats were identified; cost-effective and efficient systems were designed and produced; and a game plan was drawn up and executed. And while all this was taking place, something else happened – the Great Depression disappeared. When millions of America’s unemployed were needed to man the breeches, suddenly – almost overnight – the jobless were at work once again, and most of them in revitalized shipyards.

Today another Great Depression is upon us, and once again, only shipbuilding can save our bacon.