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Deficit Hawks Spin

 

The sub-headline for the Washington Post's article Friday on the White House Jobs Summit claims: "With deficit soaring, role of private sector pushed."

 

 

"Obama says he does not have the money for the plan many of his liberal supporters say packs the biggest employment punch--direct federal investment in job creation," the Post writes.

 

And a New York Times headline declares: "Obama Turns to Job Creation, but Warns of Limited Funds."

 

 

"While liberals are calling for ambitious job-creating measures along the lines of the New Deal," the Times reports, "Mr. Obama talked at the White House on Thursday of limited programs [like] the weatherization program… That relatively modest proposal underscores the limits of the government's ability to affect a jobless recovery."

 

 

To read these accounts one would think that when it comes to job creation we are in for another round of post-Yes We Can disappointment.

 

 

But economist Lawrence Mishel, President of the Economic Policy Institute, attended the summit and has a decidedly different take.

 

 

"I know the Administration is thinking beyond [what the coverage suggests]--to infrastructure and providing more relief to the unemployed," Mishel told me. "I think politically it is wise to acknowledge limits while proceeding to do what's possible and necessary. And, that can mean doing some very significant things to move the dial on jobs. Also, the administration won't be driving this debate, Congress will."

 

 

Mishel pointed specifically to "a terrific answer" Obama gave to a question about the deficit posed by economist Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect.

 

 

"I hope the concern about the deficit in the long run doesn't crowd out the need for additional spending in the short run," Kuttner said to Obama. "Some of these programs that increase jobs and increase GDP are probably the fastest way to get the economy back on a track that will reduce the deficit over time. It's certainly a better way to reduce the deficit than putting ourselves into a debtor's prison."

 

 

"I think this is an important point," said President Obama. "If we can't grow our economy, then it is going to be that much harder for us to reduce the deficit. The single most important thing we could do right now for deficit reduction is to spark strong economic growth, which means that people who've got jobs are paying taxes and businesses that are making profits are paying taxes. That's the most important thing we can do. The last thing we would want to do in the midst of what is a weak recovery is us to essentially take more money out of the system either by raising taxes or by drastically slashing spending."

 

 

Obama also spoke on how it will be crucial for the federal government to continue helping state and local governments facing deficits that are forcing them to slash jobs and services, and to make "investments in infrastructure, in education, in clean energy."

 

 

"Now's the time actually to make sure that we're prioritizing properly and pushing even harder on that front," said Obama.

 

 

It's in vogue in DC these days to treat the deficit as if it is a sign of the End of Days. It seems the President was, in fact, significantly more rational in taking on job creation than the media coverage would have you believe.

 

 

But check out the Summit transcript and decide for yourself.

 

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