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Funny numbers

voinovichconstruction.JPGGeorge Voinovich:

Over the past two years, our nation borrowed $123 billion to pay for unemployment insurance extensions, our national debt increased by almost $4 trillion, and Democrats passed a $2 trillion health care bill and a stimulus bill now estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to cost $860 billion. In spite of all this spending, people are asking, “Where are the jobs?”

There are two numbers in this paragraph that fit the point Voinovich is making: The $123 billion in unemployment insurance extensions and the $860 billion in stimulus. Estimates put the jobs created by those bills near 3 million. But that's 3 million jobs amid more than 150 million workers, and that's about $1 trillion or so in stimulus spread over three years of the American economy, which is to say it's about $1 trillion against more than $40 trillion. So you could ask, "Where are the jobs?" but you could also ask, "Where is the spending?"

Meanwhile, the "$2 trillion health care bill" doesn't start spending until 2014 and then cuts and taxes elsewhere so that the next increase in government spending is ... negative. The increase in national debt reflected a massive drop in revenues, not $4 trillion in spending over the past two years (which is why you can't get the other numbers in this paragraph to add to $4 trillion).

And what's weirdest about this op-ed is that Voinovich isn't against stimulus: He wants more of it. Meanwhile, Voinovich is arguing for highway investment, which he sells using a Transportation Department estimate that "for every $1 billion the federal government invests in highways and bridges, 34,800 jobs are created or maintained." And it's true: Tens or hundreds of billions spent on transportation infrastructure conceivably creates tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs. But even so, Americans will still be asking, "Where are the jobs?" If you want them to stop asking that, you need policies as big as the problem, not numbers that make them think your policies were bigger than they were.

Photo credit: Boris Grdanoski/AP.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 5, 2010; 11:19 AM ET
 
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Comments

It'd be nice if they started putting less money into roads and more money into public transportation (eg. trains, subways, etc.)

Posted by: leoklein | August 5, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Estimates put the jobs created by those bills near 3 million.


Yeah!!! We all believe THOSE estimates too.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | August 5, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, the "$2 trillion health care bill" doesn't start spending until 2014


It is commited right now for the spending that will occur then.....it is $2 Trillion of Tax Payer money that is gone as of right now.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | August 5, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

The statement that "the '$2 trillion health care bill' doesn't start spending until 2014" is FALSE. What about the high-risk pools which have already expended 80% of funds available prior to 2014?

And what about the state-level and consumer-level spending that has already been required? And what about the uncertainty introduced by FinReg? Yes, the policies have been big and intrusive... but the question remains: where are the jobs?

Posted by: rmgregory | August 5, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Voinovich fails to mention that the debt has increased over the last 2 years because we are paying off the interest of the huge surge in the deficit due to 2 wars and a big tax cut from the last administration.

Posted by: ciocia1 | August 5, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: JoeJeffersonn | August 5, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

There is a fundamental defect with this kind of thought. It is simply not possible to reconcile the idea that the health care bill is GOOD for the deficit in any way. Its spending, period. Even if you think its going to be paid for (I will believe it when I see it), its still an enormous entitlement. Any taxes or savings present in this bill are no longer available to address problems with our current entitlements. Its insanity to look at it any other way.

Ezra is particularly guilty of desperately trying to spin this as a deficit reduction bill. You have to wonder if he actually believes this himself, or (much more likely) he's pandering to the credulous with the hope that it will further his goal of attaining socialized medicine in this country.

You are intellectually dishonest, and its disgusting. This type of nonsense is the reason more and more Americans (at least the ones I know) are just shaking their heads and giving up. If you had any credibility at all, you would just say it candidly: "We want socialized health care, much higher taxes, and more government control and regulation. We understand that you can't go from our current system straight to the European Welfare State model, so our goal is to guide legislation and policy towards that eventual outcome. We know that once we enact new "free stuff", it becomes nearly impossible to repeal it. This is our plan, and we want your money, because we can put it to better use than you can."

Just own up, clown.

Posted by: donopj2 | August 5, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

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