What direction will we choose? That amounts to the signal issue for many. It's the essential basis for the Blue/Red divide.
We can waste time trying to filter the various candidates stated positions through myopics lenses or simply cut to the chase. Which candidates look to 'The Government' to provide solutions and which sees government as the antithesis of real solutions involving individual needs?
Uncle Karl describes one ideal: “From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need”. Wrapped in an anti-capitalist cloak that premise demands that those that are productive provide for those who are not.
In practical terms this means that government is used to redistribute wealth. The most obvious flaw is that as the number of government administrators needed grows the actual returns diminish.
It's been pointed out (by the oddest group of selective supporters) that the early Christians practiced a form of communal living that would seem to suggest a precursor of sorts, however the distinction between voluntary and mandatory seems to be ignored when making such a comparison.
One highly touted example of the direction some suggest are the various programs instituted by FDR during the depression. Others are examining that time with new eyes. See this article.
Is a public-sector job really as good as a job created in the private sector? I've been wondering about this a lot lately, in part because I just finished a book about the period of the first great American experiment in public job creation, the New Deal. Critics have written that I failed to appreciate the value of New Deal emergency jobs. But the quality of government-paid jobs is also relevant because of the Democratic presidential candidates' interest in that 1930s experiment.
To hear the candidates talk, a repeat of 1930s-scale government job creation is dangerously overdue. John Edwards has proposed that government take the lead in creating types of jobs--"green collar" and "stepping stone"--to serve the two goals of protecting the environment and giving lower earners new skills. Dennis Kucinich is calling for a new green version of FDR's Works Progress Administration.
The relevant points for today are simple. The famous "multiplier effect" of public spending may exist. U.S. cities do indeed need new highways, new buildings and new roads, maybe even from government. But these needs should be weighed against damage that comes when officials create projects and jobs for political reasons.
When 'pork barrel' spending, earmarks, and worse, are a constant reminder that reality and common sense are in short supply among our elected officials we'd better pay close attention in self defense.