Jobs, Health Care Costs, then maybe Deficits

In an article in today’s NYTimes, Paul Krugman raises the  problem of how Washington policy manipulators … uhh makers have downgraded the issue of Jobs from number 1  to an also ran against “cutting the deficit”. Yet just  4 months before Paul Krugman was a guest commentator on ABC TV Sunday news program, This Week, in which he heard Arianna Huffington, editor  of the Huffington Post say almost exactly the same words about what should be priorities for the US National elections.  Arianna argued that all the major US National  polls showed that people’s number one concern was jobs. Finding and creating new jobs  easily out-distanced housing/foreclosure problems, and rising costs of food and fuel. Deficit reduction was a distant 4th or 5th concern. So there is a bit of irony in Krugmans current words

More than three years after we entered the worst economic slump since the 1930s, a strange and disturbing thing has happened to our political discourse: Washington has lost interest in the unemployed. Jobs do get mentioned now and then — and a few political figures, notably Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, are still trying to get some kind of action. But no jobs bills have been introduced in Congress, no job-creation plans have been advanced by the White House and all the policy focus seems to be on spending cuts. So one-sixth of America’s workers — all those who can’t find any job or are stuck with part-time work when they want a full-time job — have, in effect, been abandoned.

These are almost exactly Arianna Huffington’s sentiments  if not exact phrasing and words from 4 months ago.  But in fact what Paul Krugman is pointing out is a continuing   great reversal in national  priorities. The public keeps saying Jobs are the number one,; health care insurance  costs [which are increasing by double digits ranging from  10% to 30%] are along with inflating food and fuel costs the second priority and running the government  more efficently and effectively is the third priority. Deficit reductions, possibly seen as a way to run government for effectively, might be hanging in on at level three priority. But many would say running government more effectively is really targetted at reducing  stridency and partisan bickering in Washington.

So the real elephant in the room then is how can the people’s priorities be so effectively  and continually reversed? What deviant policy manipulating instrument is usurping the popular will? How do Washington  policy makers/manipulators justify moving  jobs off the top of the table? A really telling  analysis would be to explain whose interests are being advanced in getting deficit reductions advanced as the number 4-5 priority to number 1 while keeping  jobs on the back burner. This might be a worthy topic  for Paul Krugman’s NYTimes  colleague, David Brooks to consider now that he is devoting so much time and editorial space to social decision making.