This is not a joke (at least not on my part). David Broder, the longtime columnist and reporter at a formerly respectable newspaper, quite explicitly suggested that fighting a war with Iran could be an effective way to boost the economy. Ignoring the idea that anyone should undertake war as an economic policy, Broder’s economics is also a visit to loon tune land.
Broder tells readers:
Can Obama harness the forces that might spur new growth? This is the key question for the next two years.
What are those forces? Essentially, there are two. One is the power of the business cycle, the tidal force that throughout history has dictated when the economy expands and when it contracts.
Economists struggle to analyze this, but they almost inevitably conclude that it cannot be rushed and almost resists political command. As the saying goes, the market will go where it is going to go.
In this regard, Obama has no advantage over any other pol. Even in analyzing the tidal force correctly, he cannot control it.
What else might affect the economy? The answer is obvious, but its implications are frightening. War and peace influence the economy.
Sorry Mr. Broder, outside of Fox on 15th the world does not work this way. War affects the economy the same way that other government spending affects the economy. It does not have some mystical impact as Broder seems to think.
If spending on war can provide jobs and lift the economy then so can spending on roads, weatherizing homes, or educating our kids. Yes, that’s right, all the forms of stimulus spending that Broder derided so much because they add to the deficit will increase GDP and generate jobs just like the war that Broder is advocating (which will also add to the deficit).
So, we have two routes to prosperity. We can either build up our physical infrastructure and improve the skills and education of our workers or we can go kill Iranians. Broder has made it clear where he stands.
Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of False Profits: Recovering from the Bubble Economy. He also has a blog Beat the Press, where he discusses the media’s coverage of economic issues. This article was first published in CEPR’s “Beat the Press” blog on 31 October 2010 under a Creative Commons license.