The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology.

As usual, some stimulus spending has been criticized because it is “wasteful” and doesn’t create jobs. Here are a couple examples published recently:

$1.9 million spent to photograph ants has created two jobs.. Other ant research stimulus projects: $451,000 has created one job, $276,000 created six one-hundredths of a job, and $800,000 created no jobs. The $144,000 spent to study the behavior of monkeys on cocaine created four-tenths of a job. To study why monkeys respond to unfairness cost $677,000 – and has created no jobs yet.”

I am reminded of former Wisconsin Democratic Sen. William Proxmire, who published his monthly “Golden Fleece” awards for what he considered wasteful spending. He often was criticized for opposing basic research he did not understand, for instance NASA, SETI and the Aspen Movie Map. Many worthwhile, federal research projects have been killed because some politician thought they were frivolous. This is especially true of basic research, where the ultimate benefits are yet to be determined.

The notorious Mansfield Amendment prohibited the Defense Department from carrying out “any research project or study unless such project or study has a direct and apparent relationship to a specific military function.” Such Congressional meddling in research virtually eliminates discoveries based on serendipity.

Whether or not you consider ant research to be wasteful, it is highly unlikely that $1.9 million created only two jobs. Let’s speculate on where that $1.9 million might have gone. Photographers, photographic equipment, rent, researchers, travel, computers, chemistry equipment – all of which helped various businesses and people. Then those businesses and people spent the money they received on things like food, clothing, shelter and transportation, all of which helped more people and businesses. And on and on and on. In a similar vein, the monkey research expenses were paid to people and businesses.

In short, when the government spends money, that money costs you nothing. (Taxes do not pay for the spending of a monetarily sovereign nation.) In fact, that spending adds money to the economy, and that money circulates throughout the economy, stimulating as it goes. Every time the federal government spends, people and businesses benefit, and in turn these people and businesses spend, which benefits more people and businesses. Ultimately, all federal spending creates jobs.

There always will be a politician who tries to look heroic and prudent, by pointing out what he considers to be wasteful spending. While state and local governments, which do not have the unlimited ability to create money, can spend wastefully, it almost is impossible for any federal spending to be wasteful, even in cases where the original expenditure seemed frivolous in some eyes. Even spending for the notorious Alaskan “Bridge to Nowhere” would have benefitted the economy by pumping money into the hands of people and businesses.

Good rule of thumb: The more federal spending, the healthier the economy. Reduced growth in federal spending has resulted in nearly every recession and depression, and increased federal spending dragged this economy out of the recession.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity