It’s time for the US to spend its money where it’s needed, for the common people. The NYT article on debt repayment points out the problems facing the US if it borrows a ton more money for another stimulus or further bailouts. The main beneficiary so far of the taxpayer largess has been Wall Street, which got us into this fix in the first place. It was initially necessary to save the banks and the financial system, but now the idea seems to be that if we make the Wall Street financiers insanely, obscenely rich, some of that wealth will trickle down to ordinary people. It’s not happening, as the 10% unemployment rate demonstrates.

Everybody says we need more jobs. So, why doesn’t the government create jobs, rather than throw money at the banks and the Wall Street fat cats? It could do this more or less the way FDR did, just create make-work jobs. Construction projects only go so far, since we now have a lot of women and older men in the work force. One office version of make-work would be data entry. The government must have tons of data that it would like to have, or it could get started on computerizing medical records.
Another helpful step would be to impose a year or two of compulsory public service on all young people when they finish their studies, or when they are 18. We wouldn’t need to impose a military draft, but military service would be one way to fill the compulsory service requirement. We need more soldiers, and we need fewer people entering the labor market. The compulsory service could be in the US, working in slums, or doing menial work in hospitals, or doing environmental conservation work, or many other things. They could also serve in the Peace Corps, or in the military. The military claims they prefer the all-volunteer Army, but these people could be cooks, or clean latrines, or do other menial work that the military now contracts out for much higher fees that the young people would get. They could get something like $10 per hour, and if they are married and have children, one spouse could be paid the same amount to stay home and take care of the children, thus doubling their income. They would generally live in barracks or group housing and eat in group cafeterias or mess halls, but in some cases could get food stamps or other subsidies as needed for a family living alone. Some young people would opt to serve in the military, thus easing the recruiting strain created by fighting two wars.
We needed Geithner and the bailout when we were on the verge of going over the financial cliff at the end of 2008. But that’s over according to the economists. We’re growing again. So, let’s break up the banks that are too big to fail, raise taxes on the rich, give jobs to people who need them, and prevent young people from entering the labor market immediately by requiring a yar of two of public service.
One other thing — raise interest rates. Everybody says that raising taxes and interest rates will kill the recovery. Okay, but save the ordinary people by giving them government jobs. Then let the rich fend for themselves if the recovery stumbles. They might have to sell one of their four houses. Good!
The perverse effect of keeping the recovery going is that it is creating the same asset bubbles that got us into this mess in the first place. Low interest rates are a primary culprit. We at least need some minimal interest. It’s ridiculous that banks can borrow from the Fed at zero percent and then charge 25% or 30% to their credit card holders. There should be some cost of money to discourage the creation of new bubbles by the greedy barons of Wall Street. Ask Paul Volker!

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