The Washington Post

Explain how he’s wrong

The blogger Atrios, who I think has cornered the market on cryptic brevity, also has a tendency toward repetition, which he freely acknowledges. For him it is the importance of the point that matters, and he tries to package that up in different ways to keep it interesting. Little, usually cryptic, packages.

One of the points he hammers away on is the breathtakingly lackadaisical attitude policy-makers have about unemployment. Their hand-wringing and lamentations are instead directed toward future debt rather than current joblessness. The grinding reality of long-term unemployment is treated either an interesting but uncompelling item of data, or even somehow as a kind of bracing tonic for past economic indiscretions. Indiscretions that were led by the financial sector, but whose consequences have been allowed to settle elsewhere. But I’ll let him sum it up, as he did in a recent post, and not all that cryptically:  “Just the occasional reminder that all the ‘hard choices’ wouldn't be necessary if we just put people back to work. Of course then we wouldn't be able to pat ourselves on our backs for making ‘hard choices’ that hurt other people, and that wouldn't be nearly as fun.”

Yes, glib. But explain to me why the policy debate relentlessly skirts around the point he is making: that austerity now actually makes the future debt issues WORSE, not better. This really is the crux of our current economic moment. We hear the deficit side of it examined with fevered regularity. But the jobs and growth side? Why IS that discussion so scarce, anyway?

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog. See all of his cartoons here.


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