There is a strong case for the prompt enactment of further timely, targeted and temporary fiscal stimulus…

Larry Summers, 2008

Remember when stimulus was supposed to be temporary, targeted, and timely? The departure from that notion by those calling for short-term austerity has been recognized and ridiculed. But there are those calling for long-term commitments and programs which are just as far afield from ideal stimulus. To wit, Michael Lind  Policy Director at the New America Foundation, calling for permanent increases in the public sector and, yes, a new entitlement program for seniors.

One solution would be direct, permanent expansion of public sector employment in “quality of life” jobs like teaching, child care, public health care, and policing….

…Many democracies in Europe and Asia have had successful experiences with vouchers provided to individuals for in-home services. My colleague at the New America Foundation Lauren Damme and I have proposed a Dignity Voucher program along these lines. Qualified retirees would receive vouchers entitling them to a certain number of hours of in-home help each week.

I’d first like to point out that this is exactly the opposite of what you want in countercyclical stimulus. It’s untargeted, untimely, and permanent. At most you could defend targeted, but “make more teachers, police, and health care workers” isn’t even a very targeted goal, let alone the vast and disparate array of policies necessary to actually accomplish that.  You want to argue that we could get this done quickly? Take another look what he has in mind:

Many of these victims of the Great Recession have limited skills and were employed in low-wage jobs in the luxury sectors like restaurants and retail that catered to the big spenders of the bubble economy. The goal of public policy should be to directly and indirectly provide jobs for many of these workers in service sector jobs that address the needs of mainstream Americans, like health care and education, rather than return them to dead-end menial service jobs where they will work again for the affluent.

Your not going to turn waiters and GAP cashiers into radiologists and teachers overnight. This is going to take a long time.

I understand the need to plan for the long-term health of the economy, but unlike infrastructure spending these suggestions can’t be defended by appealing to long-term growth. Instead, this is a straight up plan for a larger, more redistributive government. One of the biggest problems today is that in the long-run we can’t afford the level of government, and in the short-run we can’t afford to cut back on spending or raise taxes. A slowly rolled out, permanent increase in government payrolls and entitlements doesn’t help either, and will probably make both worse. I mean this guys is seriously arguing for another entitlement program for senior citizens. He’s actually saying this.

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