Hurt Called 'Obstructionist…Do-Nothing'

Published 2:58 pm Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Editor, the Herald,

Your opinion pages of October 5th presented an interesting, though unintended, debate. On one side was our congressman, Robert Hurt, who wrote (or had written for him) “The House is Working to Help Spur Job Creation,” and on the next page your (and NYT's) columnist Paul Krugman, who wrote “Phony Fear Factor.”

Mr. Hurt repeated the Republican belief that the reason businesses are not hiring is that they are fearful of government regulations and of higher taxes. By reducing taxes even further and removing ever more regulations, these businesses will again start hiring and the economy will take off like a rocket. Never mind that the recession was demonstrably caused by these exact policies, together with two unfunded wars fought at the same time.

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Mr. Krugman pointed out that actual surveys of businesses reveal that government regulation and taxes are way, way down on their lists of concerns. What really seems to worry businesses is a lack of demand for their products. Why should they hire new workers and expand inventory when they can't sell what they have? Thus they are holding on to their money instead of using it to expand plants and hire more people. Mr. Krugman called views like Mr. Hurt's “completely divorced from reality.” Demand for goods and services increase when people have the money to buy them. Therefore, any process which provides money to consumers can act as a match to light the bonfire of economic renewal. Mr. Krugman's got the facts on his side, to go along with his Nobel Prize in Economics.

Mr. Hurt says that government can't create jobs. Really? Where do the jobs come from when a state builds a highway or a bridge? The contract for that work goes out to private enterprise and they hire more workers. So who created the jobs? It seems reasonable to assume that it was the government, since without the money provided by taxes, the highway would not be built.

And in turn, doesn't that suggest a way to get money into people's pockets by investing in our infrastructure?

But a second myth, undoubtedly believed by Mr. Hurt, stands in the way. This myth is that of the utterly independent entrepreneur, who out of nothing builds an enterprise that employs thousands. Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has an answer for that one. She cheers for those who start new and successful businesses, but reminds them that their goods move to market on public roads we all paid for, and that their factories are protected by firemen and police also paid for by the society as a whole. We all paid to educate their workers. Without those things, it seems unlikely that anyone could start and maintain a “private” business. In other words, we don't succeed alone. We're all in this together, and we have to agree to contribute to our common enterprise in the interests of the future. This means paying taxes to make investments in education, infrastructure, and research. “No new taxes” has got to be the dumbest (but most surprisingly effective) electioneering slogan ever invented.

In 2012, we'll have a chance to pass judgment on the performance of obstructionists and do-nothings like Mr. Hurt. I sincerely hope that someone-from either party-will step forward to challenge him. We can no longer afford his kind of “representation.”

Bill Shear