It’s the Unemployment, Stupid

You should check out Joe Wiesenthal’s chart-jammed Business Insider piece arguing that there is only one way to fix the deficit, but it’s “painless”—increase growth by reducing unemployment.

I liked his take on the psychology of “pain,” a word we have heard a lot of in the recent, seemingly endless negotiations/grandstanding exhibitions:

It’s understandable why the pain metaphor is so popular. One, it’s logical to think that the answer to big deficits is cuts, and cuts are painful. More importantly, it appeals to an innate sense that pain is frequently a long-run redeeming thing to experience. You go to do Crossfit, and you feel pain. But then pretty soon you’re a beast that’s never felt better. Some religious groups use to mutilate their own flesh to show proper respect to The Lord.

It is also, I would add, a signal of Seriousness on the part of Serious People that they are Seriously thinking this through in a bipartisan manner, that they have truly done the Serious, requisite chin-stroking before coming to the conclusion that, dang it, we just don’t have any choice but to cut Social Security.

I also thought this was a useful point:

In the debate over fiscal policy, you frequently hear liberals argue: “It’s not time to deal with the deficit, we need to fix the economy first and then fix the deficit when the economy is stronger.” While this has merit as a political concept, it’s actually giving into a false frame that dealing with the deficit and dealing with unemployment are two separate things that you do at different times. Steps you take to improve unemployment are deficit reduction measures, as the above chart from IBD shows. While the government has done, technically, nothing to address the deficit in the last few years, the deficit is shrinking (relative to GDP) merely because the economy has improved, and more people are going back to work. If unemployment drops to 7 percent, or 6.5 percent, or 6 percent, we’ll get quite a bit of deficit reduction then.

Great, a plan! Good thing we have such a highly functioning legislative branch of our government to enact it for us.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.