In 1976 at a time when economists thought more about unemployment, the US economist Charles C. Killingsworth wrote a paper entitled “Should full employment be a major national goal”.
He was a long-time advocate of public employment programs and understood how deficient the economics profession was when it came to caring about people. I thought about this paper recently upon reading an article in the Daily Beast by the always insightful Michael Tomasky, “The Real Obama Needs to Fight Five GOP Myths About the Imaginary Obama”. Tomasky discusses the myths that Obama needs to dispel during his party’s upcoming convention. One in particular caught my attention: the idea that the President needed to confront the myth that he allegedly believes that jobs come from government.
What’s wrong about that? In one sense, it is a myth: to the extent that jobs are an outgrowth of sales, which are a function of aggregate demand, it is wrong to say that the public sector per se creates jobs. But demand (and, by extension, sales) is more robust when employment rates are higher and, in that sense, it matters not to the restaurant owner, or the engineering firm, whether the source of that demand comes from a private or public sector job. The teacher’s cash is just as good at the cash register as the accountant’s. So why does the president even need to disparage the notion that good jobs and vocations cannot come from public employment in order to prove to American voters that he’s not some kind of radical Marxist?