I know this isn't exactly news, but it bears periodic repetition.
First off, if we're richer as a nation, then (a) we'll pay more taxes anyway, which will help balance the budget, and (b) the remaining shortfall will be easier to deal with, because any problem having to do with money is easier to solve when you're wealthier.
Yeah, I know. Pretty grade-school stuff. But it's amazing how many people around DC don't even think about that.
Second, the source of our wealth is in the goods and services we produce. If we produce more, we have more for ourselves, and more to trade for the goods and services available elsewhere. The quantity of goods and services we produce is basically the product of how many people are working, and their productivity.
We aren't hurting on the productivity side, but I think we've all noticed a bit of a problem on the 'how many people are working' factor in that product over the past few years.
So what we want to do is put people back to work. Even if we think our national debt is Problem #1. We get on the road to solving that problem by increasing our wealth, and we increase our wealth by getting people back to work.
It's not like there isn't plenty that needs doing. We need to put teachers back in the classroom, because saving money by doing an inferior job of educating our kids is a false economy, like saving money in your household budget by taking your kid out of college and putting him to work at McDonald's. It may temporarily help your bottom line, but it's a bad long-run tradeoff of the sort you want to avoid if there's any way at all to avoid it. And as a nation, we can borrow money for nothing these days. We can put teachers back to work.
Similarly with infrastructure. If we repair aging water and sewer systems, fix crumbling bridges, or build better rail systems, we create lasting wealth. We're richer. And the people who would do these things are sitting idle because there's no damned work for them to do. So we'd be richer, and they'd be richer, and life would be good.
And they'd have money to buy things, which would put other people back to work, and eventually we'd all be working, and we'd be as wealthy as a nation as we could possibly be. Tax revenues would go up, money spent on unemployment benefits and food stamps would go down, and our fiscal problems would be smaller. And what remained of our deficits would be easier to deal with because we'd all be richer, and it would be less of a burden to deal with the rest of the problem, if it was still a problem.
And all we have to do to make this happen is borrow some money for free now, and pay it back when we're rich. It would be a bargain at twice the price.
Putting people back to work: it's the one-size-fits-all solution to all our economic problems.
End of rant. Open thread.