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Shields and Brooks on the Elections

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - November 6, 2009

JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, good to see you both.

Let's start with the bad news, Mark, unemployment 10.2 percent. What are the implications for the president, for everybody else in Washington?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, I think, first of all, it's still a shock. Even though it was expected, it's a shock.

And there is something absolutely staggering to one's attention about 10 percent unemployment in this country, 26 years since we have had it before. And there's not the sense that we had in 1983 that the country is going to rebound quickly. We had 9.5 percent increase in productivity last quarter. And what -- what has it lead to? It has lead to the stock market going up to 10,000 -- that's great news -- and profits going up, but jobs going down, and 192,000 lost this month.

I just think it shows the disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street in this country and what people are going through. And I think, politically, it's a -- it's an absolute warning and wakeup call to the Democrats that, if you are looking at 10 percent unemployment next October, you are looking at the threat of the Republicans winning the Congress.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A wakeup call?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

I mean, it's -- it's a combination of a bunch of things, first, a long-term period of unemployment. Now are you beginning to hear -- we have heard economists talk for a long time about this will last through 2010. Now, all of a sudden, you're beginning to hear 2011.

And that is because what we are recovering from, this long pileup of debt, and now we are living with the seven slim years that come after that pileup of debt. So, you have got the long period of unemployment, which people expect to linger for a long time.

At the second point, you have got no faith in institutions. So, it's not like people believe that this can solve it or that can solve it. And then, if you ask people, well, should the government get more active to try to -- another stimulus package, something like that else, twice as many people say no as yes, because they are afraid we have already got too much public deficits.

So, what we have got is this long-term problem, no faith in institutions, and then no easy way out, which I think could lead over the next year or two to an even bigger increase in the sort of economic populism we are already seeing on left and right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if you are President Obama, what do you do?

MARK SHIELDS: You pass health care.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Or is there anything?

I -- I agree with David the numbers on the deficit are sobering. And they are certainly cautionary. But what we're talking about is jobs. And that -- and before we went to war in the Persian Gulf in 1991, Jim Baker, then the secretary of state, was asked what is the war about, and he said, jobs, jobs, jobs.

This is about jobs, jobs, jobs. And that is where all the attention, all the effort, and all the energy has to be. It has got to be creative. I think if it means further deficit, so be it. They have got to stimulate the economy at this point. You have got wary consumers, and you have got banks that are profitable that are reluctant to make loans, and you've got companies that are profitable that are not hiring.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But you have got 15 million people -- 15 million jobs that are gone.

DAVID BROOKS: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Can a government recreate those somewhere?

DAVID BROOKS: To some extent.

I mean, the things that have worked, they have given money to the states to keep teachers employed. That stuff works. What doesn't seem to have worked is the idea of pumping money into the economy and creating this vast multiplier, where business takes off.

Business has not taken off because the psychology is not there. Everybody is still hunkered down because they think there is still a lot of debt out there. And, so, to me, if I'm in the government, I think, we can't add more fizz to economy with more debt, but we -- what we do have to do is focus on long-term job creation.

And that's energy and other things, because one thing we have learned about this economic cycle and increasingly recent economic cycles is, it is not like you get laid off and then you get retired at the same job. That doesn't happen as much anymore. You have got to look for a whole new sector and a whole new job.

And, so, to me, if I'm the Obama administration, I'm thinking, I'm not just going to try to stimulate the economy with short-term fizz. I am going to solve some fundamental problems to help create some new industries for new jobs.

MARK SHIELDS: And you will be the Obama administration which is the Clinton administration, which is, your second half the first term, you have a Republican Congress. I mean, that is the risk you are running. You cannot -- you cannot go into the next election at 10 percent unemployment. I mean, whatever it takes, you have to do.

And it means being creative. It means being imaginative. But I agree with David. It's great in the long run.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And forget the deficit?

MARK SHIELDS: But you've got to -- you've got to -- in the short run, you have got to get people back to work.

And the fear of government, the fear of spending is massive. And again, this poll, the Gallup poll, they asked people, would you rather have the government spend money to employ people, at the cost of running up the debt, or would you have them not spend money, even if the recession lasts longer? Two-to-one, 62 percent, don't spend the money; worry about the deficit -- 31 percent, spend the money.

The public is pretty clear on this.

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