Appearance Alert!
MRC's Brent Bozell talks about media bias on FNC's The Kelly File, 9:30pm ET/PT Thursday

NBC's Gregory Longs for 'Government Playing a Bigger Role' in Economy

In an interview with liberal economist Jeffrey Sachs for Meet the Press's Press Pass segment on Sunday, moderator David Gregory worried about skepticism of big government: "...a lot of it has to do with what role does a government play in creating more structural balance in the economy, creating more jobs...doing what nobody else can do for the economy....but that the country writ large does not support....So what changes that and what happens in the absence of that movement back toward government playing a bigger role and spending all of that money?" [Listen to the audio]

Sachs began his response by leveling criticism against the Obama administration's massive stimulus program: "...there's a lot of skepticism, and it's understandable. If the government wastes money or runs huge deficits and so forth, you can't be very confident....What you can't do is say, 'We're going to spend a trillion dollars, or nearly a trillion dollars, and we're going to work it out in the next five weeks and we're going to throw it on to the floor of Congress before anyone can even read it.'"

However, Sachs then predictably argued that the real problem was that Obama did not go far enough:

...we have deep structural problems in this country....This has to be done seriously. What kind of energy system do we want in the future? How are we going to face climate risks? What are we going to do about the massive droughts that have hit this country, the massive floods that hit the east cost that now have a price tag of $20 billion for more protection for New York City? Do we care about those things? I think we should. But you can't settle those issues in a matter of five weeks in a stimulus bill, you need long-term plans.

Near the end of the exchange, Gregory hopefully asked: "Will the Obama legacy on the economy be that he turned the economy around?" Sachs shot down the notion: "I think it's just going to be mediocre legacy because we have a mediocre economy and we have not solved long-term problems."

Sachs made another plea for greater government intervention: "And those problems are going to go away on their own. They're not going to be solved by the market alone because for certain things, for infrastructure, for skills, for technology, for science, for environmental protection, you need government. But this is going to be a legacy of very little progress on those deeper challenges."

Here is a transcript of the June 23 Press Pass exchange, aired on the local Washington D.C. NBC  affiliate WRC-4:

11:42AM ET

(...)

DAVID GREGORY: And we're back with more from economist and best-selling author Jeffrey Sachs on his new book, To Move the World: JFK's Quest for Peace.

Let me spend a couple minutes talking about another area of your expertise, and that is the economy. Here we stand in the President's second term, where his primary goal is economic restoration. Stock market doing well, corporate profits are up, the housing market seems to be reviving somewhat. And yet we still seem – see that jobs seem to be lagging behind. Is that the Obama legacy on the economy?

JEFFREY SACHS: The sad thing is that one could have said and he should have known, and I'm afraid that his team should have known already back in 2009, we have deep structural problems in this country. Young people without the skills can't get a decent job, many can't get any work, others are in very temporary or lousy low-pay work. And that's the nature of the modern world economy: globalization, off-shoring, technological change.

So we needed a strategy that was a longer-term strategy, one to rebuild our technological leadership, our infrastructure, the skills of young people. Instead, in my view, he went for the short-term, he went for the stimulus, that lasted a year or two. But what good would that be if you were facing structural challenges? So I think that this is another example of the political cycle, rather than the economic challenge.

GREGORY: Right. And it's a long cycle, because a lot of it has to do with what role does a government play in creating more structural balance in the economy, creating more jobs, and creating both a skill set, but also doing what nobody else can do for the economy. And that, as you know, as a progressive, is something that you may support, but that the country writ large does not support, at least in our political class. So what changes that and what happens in the absence of that movement back toward government playing a bigger role and spending all of that money?

SACHS: I think you said it exactly right, there's a lot of skepticism, and it's understandable. If the government wastes money or runs huge deficits and so forth, you can't be very confident. My view is you have to make the case, you have to build it carefully, you have to show really what you have in mind in a modern infrastructure, in a new energy system.

What you can't do is say, "We're going to spend a trillion dollars, or nearly a trillion dollars, and we're going to work it out in the next five weeks and we're going to throw it on to the floor of Congress before anyone can even read it." That is not only, in my view, a wrong economic strategy, it's a wrong political strategy. Who can have confidence in that? I believe in government spending, but not the kind that's worked up in five weeks.

This has to be done seriously. What kind of energy system do we want in the future? How are we going to face climate risks? What are we going to do about the massive droughts that have hit this country, the massive floods that hit the east cost that now have a price tag of $20 billion for more protection for New York City? Do we care about those things? I think we should. But you can't settle those issues in a matter of five weeks in a stimulus bill, you need long-term plans. We don't like that right now, that's hard work. Our politicians are on a much shorter political cycle, but that's a huge mistake because we can't solve long-term problems without working much harder at them.

GREGORY: Will the Obama legacy on the economy be that he turned the economy around?

SACHS: I think it's just going to be mediocre legacy because we have a mediocre economy and we have not solved long-term problems. And those problems are going to go away on their own. They're not going to be solved by the market alone because for certain things, for infrastructure, for skills, for technology, for science, for environmental protection, you need government. But this is going to be a legacy of very little progress on those deeper challenges.

GREGORY: Alright, we will leave it on that note. The book is, To Move the World: JFK's Quest for Peace. Jeffrey Sachs thanks so much for being here.

SACHS: Thank you so much.

GREGORY: Appreciate it.