How to Exploit America’s Contradictory Relationship to Keynes

After innumerable false starts, it finally appears that President Obama will begin to focus his energy on the country’s unemployment problems. Unfortunately, the initial signs suggest that his pivot won’t nearly be strong enough. According to news reports, his key advisors are telling him to stick to small-bore ideas—like free trade deals and patent protections for inventors—that may not have much economic impact, but seem able to survive passage in a House of Representatives dominated by Republicans. The advisors are arguing that Keynesianism—the notion that the government should spend money at times of economic crisis—simply can’t be sold to the American people.

Obama should ignore these advisors. While public opinion polls consistently show that Americans are skeptical of Keynesian ideas, they can still be won over on the merits of many specific Keynesian policies. It’s by exploiting this seeming contradiction that Obama can win over the public and take concrete steps to boost the economy.

This article was originally published in The New Republic.