Paul Krugman’s big government Keynesianism would welcome an Ebola pandemic

Paul Krugman

In the year 1729, famed Irish satirist Jonathan Swift wrote “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick, or, as it is more commonly known, simply “A Modest Proposal.”  In Swift’s Proposal, he describes in painful detail the plight of Ireland’s poor and beggar classes, and suggests Irish society can benefit by encouraging poor people to sell their children to the rich as a source of food. For the skeptical he provides suggestions for proper preparation of the proffered progeny, a veritable smorgasbord of appetizing ankle-biters. Notes Swift, ”A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.”

Sadly, in our day, it has become nearly impossible to write effective satire about the political left; not because they don’t offer plenty of material to work with, but because liberals too often miss the fact that it is satire and instead use it as a blueprint for public policy.

For example, a few years ago while debating FDR’s impact on the Great Depression, a liberal friend argued that massive Keynesian spending policies of the New Deal provided the economic catalyst which ended the Great Depression. In response, I pointed out that the “recovery” took nearly a decade, and ended only with America’s entrance into WWII. He countered that war spending fueled the drop in unemployment, and I replied that the unemployment rate drop could also be attributed to the fact that nearly a half million young, working-age American men died in Europe and the Pacific Islands.

My comment was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but leave it to none other than leftist hero Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning economist and champion of Keynesianism, to undermine satire by proposing it as effective public policy.

In his August 15, 2011 NYT column “Oh! What a Lovely War!”, Krugman actually lauds the positive effects of WWII; you know, other than that unfortunate byproduct of 80 million dead, and the obliteration of much of Europe, Asia, and the Pacific. Krugman writes, “World War II is the great natural experiment in the effects of large increases in government spending, and as such has always served as an important positive example for those of us who favor an activist approach to a depressed economy.”

He continues:

But World War II has something to tell us here, too. Because nearly 10 million men of prime working age were drafted into the military, there was a huge skills gap between the jobs that needed to be done on the home front and the remaining work force. Yet businesses and workers found a way to get the job done. Factories simplified production methods and housewives learned to rivet.

Here the lesson is that demand is crucial — and that jobs don’t go unfilled for long. If jobs were widely available today, unemployed workers would quickly find a way to acquire needed skills or move to where the jobs were located.

Get that? War is good because it stimulates the economy with massive spending to build out your military capacity. In WWII, we sent 10 million men off to war, producing a labor shortage at home, which drove women out of their homes and into the workforce, and the labor shortage caused worker wages to rise.

Except that it didn’t. In 1943, under Executive Order 9328, FDR instituted a wage and price freeze, so there were no wage increases. In fact, a case can be made that we have the disastrous ObamaCare today due to FDR’s wage freeze. Unable to lure the best workers with higher salaries, employers looked for alternatives, the most popular of which became employer-provided insurance. Undermining the traditional doctor/patient and customer/provider relationship, employer-provided insurance introduced a middleman, in effect removing the competitive dynamic of the free market which has always improved service while driving down price.

Daniel Oliver, Jr., president of the Committee for Monetary Research and Education, points out in an article this week that an Ebola outbreak in America, by Krugman’s logic, is a fantastic development, noting the government has already spent millions of dollars in the last few months alone on more than 150,000 Haz-Mat suits, and:

[I]f the often-fatal disease spreads, demand for hazmat suits will surge, not to mention hospital clinics, workers to build barricades, security guards to man quarantine checkpoints, probate officers, orphanages, and a host of other government services. It’s a good bet ammunition sales would also rise, along with canned food, firewood, and funeral services, stimulating the private economy. A lovely pestilence could create just as many jobs as a global war.

How wonderful! In just a few months’ time, Ebola will be able to do for the economy what Obama failed to do with the stimulus, Son of Stimulus, Cash for Clunkers, and Recovery Summers 1 through 5! Sure, maybe some Americans die excruciatingly painful deaths, and sure, the outbreak might be used as a pretext to strip us of even more of our constitutionally-protected rights in the name of keeping us safe, but like in WWII, unemployment will go down (remember, dead people don’t count as unemployed) and spending will go up! It’s a win-win!

Another bonus is that the poor, elderly, and infirm (those with the least resources and capacity to fight the deadly virus) will die off, meaning we can save trillions we are now wasting on them with our welfare programs. We’ll always have poor people, so it’s not like losing a few million will matter to anyone, and old people should die at 75 because they are just a waste of space, according to Obama adviser and ObamaCare architect Ezekiel Emanuel.

Heck, we should be figuring out how to spread Ebola, not stop it! In fact, this may explain Obama’s refusal to implement a travel ban…he wants the Ebola victims here so Africa can’t hoard them! Thousands of Africans are already infected, and that number is expected to explode since they don’t have the same medical and scientific infrastructure as America and other Western countries. If we are not careful, Africans will get all of the advantages of an Ebola epidemic. Plus, those Americans that actually survive an Ebola infection will also benefit from weight loss so, as Michelle Obama would say, “Let’s Move!”

Ebola can also help us wean ourselves off of oil and coal. After all, if Britain’s hospitals can burn aborted babies as a heat source, think of how much heat we could produce by burning the bodies of dead Ebola victims? Humans are the perfect renewable fuel; in abundant supply (liberals say that there are TOO many, so they’d be on board with getting rid of a few million here and there), biodegradable, and we already know that they burn well (Hitler proved that).

Of course, any sane person understands that war and the spread of deadly viruses carry a devastating human cost that no one should desire, and that even from an economic standpoint, these travesties are not a net economic gain because you have to destroy an existing good before you can rebuild or replace.

But, as Krugman says at the end of his 2011 column, and without even a hint of irony, “Nothing shakes the faith of a true believer.”


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