Magazine article The Washington Monthly

Help Wanted

Magazine article The Washington Monthly

Help Wanted

Article excerpt

I'm glad to see that former Fed vice chairman Alan Blinder, writing in the Wall Street Journal, and Alec MacGillis, in the Washington Post, are calling for more stimulus in the form of more government jobs. Direct government employ worked in the 1930s to put more than 20 million people to work and, as I pointed out in our March/April 2009 issue, government can create jobs faster than the process Obama has followed of contracting out through private employers.

Bur "government can't do anything right" has become the view of far too many Americans, and it is Obama's fear of their criticism that keeps him from considering government employment as a way of dealing with the jobs problem. I, however, have had eighty-three years to observe government programs, and I can tell you that though some agencies are incompetent, other have proved themselves capable of truly amazing accomplishments. But people need to understand that agencies rarely stay good. They can start out doing great things but end up serving little besides their own bureaucratic self-interest. Recall the example of the Rural Electrification Administration that I mentioned several issues ago, which did such a remarkable job of bringing power and light to American farms during the 1930s bur by the 1990s degenerated to financing country club improvements just to justify its continued existence.

Franklin Roosevelt understood this. That's why when he wanted something done, he often created a new agency. The drive and idealism of new employees can do wonders. …

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