How would that help the economy?

HOW WOULD THAT HELP THE ECONOMY?…. In one of my favorite movies, “Office Space,” Bill Lumbergh puts up a soul-crushing banner in the middle of the workplace that reads, “Is this good for the company?” He encourages every employee to ponder this question with “every decision you make.”

I’d tempted to borrow the idea and hang a similar banner is policymakers’ offices that reads, “How would that help the economy?” I’d encourage every politician to ponder this question with “every decision” they make.

For example, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) noted this the other day, as part of a potential Democratic response to the midterm elections:

Democrats should support a freeze on federal hiring and pay increases. Government isn’t a privileged class and cannot be immune to the times.

Reading this, I’m wondering, “How would that help the economy?” Bayh is arguing that we’d be better off if fewer unemployed workers get jobs and federal workers have less money. I’m sure he can explain why this would help the economy — and I’m sure it’s very “moderate” — but I have no idea what that explanation might be.

Also this week, reader E.S. reminded me that an $810 million high-speed-rail corridor linking Madison and Milwaukee was put on hold in Wisconsin because Gov.-elect Scott Walker (R) doesn’t like it. This will cost Wisconsin in economic development and jobs, and a train manufacturer in the state is already talking about picking up and moving elsewhere.

And so I ask again, “How would that help the economy?”

Republicans on the Hill want to scrap existing stimulus, see more public-sector job losses, shut down the government, and push the United States into default. “How would that help the economy?”

That need not be a rhetorical question.