Friday, October 24, 2014

JOBS | Which David Brooks Should We Listen To?

David Brooks tackles every problem with earnestness and when he figures out the answer he expresses his dismay, often enough that Congress doesn't get it or hasn't acted.

In his Op-Ed today, he is on to the low labor force participation rate, the "lowest in decades".

He has read another book and he is distraught at the options facing young people: "Millions are in part-time or low-wage jobs that don’t come close to fulfilling their capacities. Millions more are in dysfunctional or unhealthy workplaces, but they don’t feel they can leave."

Transcending his University of Chicago roots, he favors favors a crash program of infrastructure investment.
The federal government should borrow money at current interest rates to build infrastructure, including better bus networks so workers can get to distant jobs. The fact that the federal government has not passed major infrastructure legislation is mind-boggling...
He warns Congress that young people are watching.
[O]ver the past five years, the political class has done essentially nothing. That will fill future generations with astonishment and should fill the current generation with rage... 
It makes sense to me. Borrowing resources today is appropriate to pay for the infrastructure needs of the future, just so long as the projects themselves are worthwhile. This was President Obama's intent when he came into office in 2009, to use stimulus money to accelerate state and local "shovel-ready" projects.

But nearly two and a half years ago Brooks was distressed at our era of indebtedness. He was appalled that any generation would "borrow money from the future to spend on itself". His article pillories debt of all kinds - Federal, state, local, business, personal. The title of his Op-Ed piece is "The Debt Indulgence".

Mr. Brooks, you are a reasonable person and you are seriously trying to come up with answers to big problems. But if we borrow to create jobs for our young people, won't we just be indulging ourselves in more debt?