Streetwise Professor

October 21, 2011

The Not-so-federal Federal Government

Filed under: Economics,Financial Crisis II,Politics,Regulation — The Professor @ 9:59 am

During this week’s bus tour, Obama repeatedly asserted that it was necessary to pass the “jobs bill” in order to save the jobs of teachers, firemen, and the like.  Biden joined in, and predicted that failure to pass the jobs bill would lead to more rapes and murders, due to layoffs of police.  And it just ain’t Crazy Joe: Jay-the-most-aptly-named-man-in-DC-Carney said that Obama “absolutely” agrees with Biden.  Harry Reid weighed in, claiming that public employment was the priority, because “it’s very clear that private-sector jobs have been doing just fine.”

An aside. First: what planet is Reid living on?  (NB: not the first time I’ve asked this question to myself.)  Second: can you imagine the hue-and-cry, the gnashing of teeth, the rending of garments, had any Republican said anything remotely similar to what Reid did?  S/he would have been labeled the second coming of Marie Antoinette* for her/his callousness, insensitivity, lack of compassion, condescension, etc., etc.

But on to my substantive point.  Since when, in the nearly 225 years of this Republic, has the employment of firemen, policemen and teachers been the responsibility of the Federal government?  Indeed, the entire concept is a mockery of the idea of a “federal” system.

I know that the Constitution is a sad shadow of its former self, primarily the result of a relentless centralizing assault beginning in the Progressive era.  (The Progressives being arch-foes of many things in the Constitution, federalism among them.)  But the idea that it is somehow the responsibility of Washington to secure the employment of teachers, etc., represents a complete mockery of the most basic ideas of the Constitution.

Brought to you, ironically, by a former lecturer in Constitutional Law.  (Not professor.  Professors at least attempt to engage in original thought and scholarship.  Obama just lectured a few classes then: he lectures the world now.)

Public education, and police and fire protection are quintessentially local activities.  Local communities internalize the benefits of these activities, and should bear the costs.  It is fundamentally defective as an economic matter, even ignoring Constitutional constraints, to shift the costs of providing these services to people who do not realize the benefits.  That just leads to waste and inefficiency.

But this isn’t about the Constitution, or economic efficiency.  This is about paying off Obama’s (and Reid’s, etc.) constituencies.

Sadly, I have looked in vain to find any relatively prominent person in politics object to the Obama-Biden-Reid efforts on principled Constitutional grounds–which in turn are based on a solid political and economic principle of delegating decision making authority to those who are directly impacted by said decisions.  Which suggests that disrespect or indifference to the most basic Constitutional tenets is a bi-partisan affair.

Not that this is news, but seldom is it so blatantly on display.

*Yes, I know Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” is a fabrication, first found in Rousseau.  Just another reason to pay no attention to Rousseau.  But for worse or for worse, Marie is the poster girl for callous indifference to human suffering.  In contrast, Harry Reid’s comment is fully documented, yet he is getting a pass.  Particularly from the intellectual heirs of Rousseau.

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  1. How do these people immunize themselves fully from cognitive dissonance. I would feel so much anxiety making these outrageous statements that I would not be able to get the words out of my mouth. Heck I feel huge dissonance anxiety just hearing them since they are so far from reality.

    I do not see how rational people could tolerate another four years of this-the anxiety levels it invokes are just too high.

    Comment by pahoben — October 21, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

  2. @pahoben. Cognitive dissonance requires cognition. Perhaps that’s the explanation.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 21, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

  3. Meanwhile, Harry Reid’s state (Nevada) has something like 13% unemployment.

    Comment by nina — October 21, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

  4. @Nina. But I’m sure they’re all schoolmarms and firemen. No construction workers unemployed in Nevada, surely.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 21, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

  5. Yes, Obama’s thinking that the federal government can possibly create these jobs will prolong and deepen the present recession, just as FDR’s attacks against “malefactors of great wealth” contributed to the regime uncertainty that retarded recovery in the Great Depression.

    The duration of the Great Depression had nothing to do with the fact that the US GNP had declined from $103.6 billion to $56.4 billion between 1929 and 1933. Nothing at all.

    Comment by a — October 21, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

  6. Well stated pahoben…

    Comment by Howard Roark — October 21, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

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