Mitt Romney’s Military Keynesianism

I haven’t been watching Romney campaign ads, but my colleague Will Saletan has a great piece about his latest salvos on defense spending which wholeheartedly endorse the idea that cuts in defense spending will cost jobs.

Will doesn’t approve, but I’m glad to hear it. One of the quirks of American politics is that for some reason politicians often seem compelled to exagerate the nature of partisan disagreements—blowing up disagreements about specific questions into broad question of great moral or theoretical import. That’s too bad. The question of whether it’s better to try to create jobs during a depression by borrowing money to invest in acquiring military equipment or borrowing money to invest in civilian infrastructure projects is an important one. Obviously it makes a great deal of difference in people’s lives whether we build an extra aircraft carrier or upgrade facilities at a bunch of schools. If we could actually debate that issue, people might learn a thing or two. It also might be possible to reach some constructive compromises.

It’s kind of fun in a dorm room philosophy way to debate the big fundamental issues instead, where Republicans pretend to believe that Democrats are wrong to think government spending can create jobs, but it’s also pretty toxic. Government spending can create jobs, when the labor market is depressed and short-term interest rates are near zero. But the question of what kind of spending is worthwhile is deeply controversial, so politicians should argue about it.