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  • Deficit Spending Stimulus Skeptics

    President Barack Obama wants us to put away out “childish” disagreements. But there is nothing childish about the very real concerns many economist have about his $800 billion soon to be over $1 trillion stimulus package. Those with very adult doubts about how borrowing another dollars can save our economy when we already have a trillion dollar deficit include:

    John Bates Clark Medal recipient, Nobel laureate, and University of Chicago economics professor Gary Becker:

    Perhaps their estimates of the stimulus provided by direct government spending are in the right ballpark, but I tend to believe that they are excessive. For one thing, the true value of these government programs may be limited because they will be put together hastily, and are likely to contain a lot of political pork and other inefficiencies. For another thing, with unemployment at 7% to 8% of the labor force, it is impossible to target effective spending programs that primarily utilize unemployed workers, or underemployed capital. Spending on infrastructure, and especially on health, energy, and education, will mainly attract employed persons from other activities to the activities stimulated by the government spending. The net job creation from these and related spending is likely to be rather small. In addition, if the private activities crowded out are more valuable than the activities hastily stimulated by this plan, the value of the increase in employment and GDP could be very small, even negative.

    Mercatus Center Financial Markets Working Group member Arnold Kling:

    [T]he risks of a large stimulus, compared with a small stimulus are:
    1. It is harder to spend larger amounts quickly and cost-effectively.
    2. There is a greater risk that we will run into a “sudden stop,” in which foreign investors are no longer willing to fund our deficits (this is Buiter’s main worry).
    3. There is a risk that the intergenerational transfer imposed by the stimulus (from our children to ourselves) is excessive, particularly in the context of other intergenerational transfers of the same sort.
    4. There is a risk that fiscal stimulus, large or small, is actually ineffective, so that a large stimulus only means a large failure.
    5. There is a risk that much of the spending will kick in after a recovery is underway.
    6. The government’s capacity to deal with an emergency, such as a major natural disaster or a foreign attack, will be limited, because its credit worthiness will be damaged.
    7. There is a risk that government will absorb a permanently higher share of GDP. Policymakers will be reluctant to cut public spending for fear of causing a downturn. Moreover, it will be difficult politically to cut public sending.

    New York University economics professor Thomas Sargent:

    The calculations that I have seen supporting the stimulus package are back-of-the-envelope ones that ignore what we have learned in the last 60 years of macroeconomic research.

    Harvard University economics professor Greg Mankiw:

    My advice to Team Obama: Do not be intellectually bound by the textbook Keynesian model. Be prepared to recognize that the world is vastly more complicated than the one we describe in econ 101. In particular, empirical studies that do not impose the restrictions of Keynesian theory suggest that you might get more bang for the buck with tax cuts than spending hikes.

    University of Chicago School of Business finance professor Eugene Fama:

    Government bailouts and stimulus plans seem attractive when there are idle resources – unemployment. Unfortunately, bailouts and stimulus plans are not a cure. The problem is simple: bailouts and stimulus plans are funded by issuing more government debt. (The money must come from somewhere!) The added debt absorbs savings that would otherwise go to private investment. In the end, despite the existence of idle resources, bailouts and stimulus plans do not add to current resources in use. They just move resources from one use to another. And bailouts and stimulus plans only enhance future incomes when the activities they favor are more productive than the activities they displace. I come back to these fundamental points several times below.

    George Mason University economics professor Russ Roberts:

    Obama’s economic team, for all its brain power and good intentions, is in uncharted territory. There’s no recipe or manual or roadmap for getting the economy back on track. No one is quite sure how to correct imbalances in financial markets and the housing market. And no one knows how to create confidence, the biggest element lacking in the current economic climate.

    No man or woman runs the economy. No man or woman or team of people can possibly plan the evolution of the economy in the coming months. America will come out of the recession but the time and pace are unknown. Obama can help. But he can just as easily slow down any recovery. Some part of the current mess we’re in is the result of erratic government policy that has added to the uncertainty facing consumer, investors, and entrepreneurs.”

    Naval Postgraduate School, economics associate professor David Henderson:

    The big thing missing is any cost-benefit analysis, even a crude one, of the “Reinvestment” Plan. We have a fairly good idea of the short-run cost of the new spending–it’s the amount that the government spends times (one plus the incremental deadweight loss per dollar spent). This is probably an understatement of the cost because many of the expenditures, although touted as temporary, may well be permanent.

    U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit judge Richard Posner:

    One thing that must give one pause, however, is the question of substitutability across construction projects. Building a house and building a highway are not interchangeable construction activities. Unemployment in the construction industry may be concentrated in residential construction, and residential construction workers may not have the right skills for highway or bridge construction, let alone for flood control. (What use is a plumber or a carpenter in building a highway?) The more specialized the American workforce has become, the less effect Keynesian public-works projects are likely to have on employment. And if they do not reduce unemployment but instead compete with private employers for workers, the only effect may be to increase the national debt and engender inflation (though inflation is one way of combating deflation).

    Stanford University economics professor John Taylor:

    Some who promoted the first stimulus package have reacted to its failure by saying that we must now switch to large increases in government spending to stimulate demand. But government spending does not address the causes of the weak economy, which has been pulled down by a housing slump, a financial crisis and a bout of high energy prices, and where expectations of future income and employment growth are low.

    The theory that a short-run government spending stimulus will jump-start the economy is based on old-fashioned, largely static Keynesian theories. These approaches do not adequately account for the complex dynamics of a modern international economy, or for expectations of the future that are now built into decisions in virtually every market.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    29 Responses to Deficit Spending Stimulus Skeptics

    1. Wayne from Jeremiah says:

      I have taken a flew quotes from your post and linked back to it from –

      BlogWatch • Is the bailout failing

      A rhetorical question of course.

    2. joseph hill says:

      Where wer you folks when Mr Bush ran up the huge deficit from a non-deficit? You didn't make a peep then but now? Well, it may or may no9t work but what we presently have is NOT working.


      see, he is off to great start

    3. CR says:

      Yeah, but Newly Minted Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman says "bring it on!" and suggests that the current plan before Congress may not go far enough. The rest of you are opposed to what must empirically be done purely due to ideological concerns.

    4. Dwana Townsend-Banke says:

      It has become apparent that the BAILOUT program set in motion is not effective, and yet our new President wants to inject more money into the economy in the form of improvements to infrastructure with the idea that it will stimulate the economy by creating more jobs. In my view, this will not work for a couple of reasons. 1. Money will be allocated to the various states, the state will then distribute the money to its cities. When the money gets to the city level, city officials will decide who is awarded the contracts for the improvement projects, most of them being in roads, bridges, and government buildings. We all know that the city officials have certain contractors they do business with and the money will never trickle down to the smaller businesses. 2. Many of our large industrial contractors have enough employees and if they don't will only hire very few as to increase their bottom line profit. What percentage of our American Citizens are commercial construction workers anyway?

      Wouldn't a better stimulus package be tax cuts across the board or even better no taxes for 2 years for working individuals and corporate tax rates set at 15% for 2 yrs. This would put money back into the hands of every American worker, not just a contractor, nurse, banker, mechanic, etc, but would span across every industry and impact every household.

      We all know that as a country we have never faced

      as many issues as we are all at one time. Our Social Security, Welfare, and Medicare are all in jeopardy of becoming extinct!! We are no longer producers of our own basic necessities like clothing, food, and energy. We used to be a nation that fed the world but instead we pay our farmers not to produce grain (WHY?). Our retailers are facing challenges of unprecidented meseaures. As a nation we face the threat of deflation that will certainly put producers, retailers, and service providers out of business with will only help to increase our unemployment rate.

      Today we don't know who will be next to announce that they are closing or who will be laying off more workers.

      The Bailout (TARP) program was rushed into. Billions of dollars have been given to various institutions (not just banks) without accountability or specific purposes set forth for usage of the money. Wasn't this money supposed to help Americans? The housing and mortgage loan business is in shambles, our citizens are losing their homes by the thousands each day. When the bailout money was granted to the financial institutions where was the oversight? Why didn't we impose or force the banks and various loan institutions to put programs into place to KEEP our citizens in their homes instead of forcing them out through forclosure causing even more deflation of our home values, as well as forcing some individuals to claim bankruptcy. WASN'T THERE A BETTER SOLUTION FROM THE BEGINNING OF THIS BAILOUT MADNESS.

      I am but one voice, but feel I have lots of great ideas and resolutions to some of these issues that plague us today, most of which if set in place now might give the next generation or the following a light at the end of the tunnel.

      I don't feel as a single citizen I have a voice at all. I have tried to express my ideas to congressmen, senators, even local district officials for it to only fall on deaf ears. It's almost as if "What do you know, you are just a common citizen". I say even the most common of us should have a voice. I thank you for this website and hope to post more thoughts as we go through even more troubled times.

      More than anything I want to be part of the solution so that future generations will endure and prosper. LETS SET IT IN MOTION!!!

    5. Spiritof76, New Hamp says:

      Why is it that the huge failed experiment of Keynesian government spending by FDR in reducing gargantuan unemployment for ten years during the 1930s not used in our universities to obsolete its use again? Why do we have to keep proving over and over again the failed policy of government spending to jump start the economy in recession? Look at Japan in the 1990s. They had tried the same approach to lift them out of their recession but was futile.

      Above all else, it is just common sense. Where does the government get its funds to expend?-tax, borrow or print. Taxation means siphoning productivity of the economy and reallocating into politically charged projects which can not compete in open market. Borrowing will increase debt without an economic return since it siphons out capital availability. Future generations are saddled with paying debt and thereby constricting capital formation through lack of savings. Finally, printing money without productivity improvements will result in inflation-another form of taxation.

      Socialism does not work. Capitalism does work. We must allow failures of inefficient organizations just as we celebrate successful ones that uplift the standard of living of everyone. We must get the government out of its intervention into the market.

    6. sportutegrl, washing says:

      Are their things we can do to help the economy that won't increase the deficit? Maybe we should look at those. My plan would be as follows:

      Require all school districts to offer vouchers for half of the current per child cost. Homeschools could get a voucher for one fourth. Every child is tested at the end of every year. Children in failing schools or homeschool will lose their voucher for the next year. Private schools will have the right to expel students who disrupt class and prevent others from learning. Scores of private and public schools are made public for parents to choose.

      So, how does this help the economy? Giving vouchers for half or less of the current cost of public school would lower costs, cutting property taxes, by as much as half. Currently some Northeastern school districts spend 15 to 20 thousand or more per student. Property taxes in some regions are as high as 6 to 10 thousand dollars or more, or 500 to 1000 per month in taxes alone. Cutting that down to 250 to 500 a month would be like a mortage rate cut and help people stay in their homes. It would also help people afford homes who can't afford the current mortgage and property tax combination. This would help the housing market and the economy, and provide better educated children for our future high tech economy. It's win-win!

    7. Lark says:


      "But their is" -> "But there is"

      "another dollars" -> "another trillion dollars"

    8. Pingback: Instapundit » Blog Archive » AT HERITAGE, a roundup of deficit-spending stimulus skeptics….

    9. Micha Elyi, Californ says:

      The only no-cost stimulus available is deregulation. Repeal and rescind the Davis-Bacon porkbarrel act that raises the costs and lowers the employment opportunities for public works spending. Repeal and rescind federal and state laws that impose unnecessary and untested requirements on people wishing to enter trades and professions.

      The gains in economic efficiency, labor mobility, and worker choice will lower unemployment and for America's men in particular, reverse their long-declining labor force participation rate.

    10. Ozzy6900, CT (The Bl says:

      It doesn't matter who the President is, both the Democrat and the Republicans are guilty of trying to have the Government correct this mess. It seems that when people go to Washington D.C., they loose the common sense that they were born with. They forget that the Government cannot create anything! The Government can only work with what it has (at least a Government that works).

      Mistakes were made on both sides of the fence by forcing lending companies to sell the "American Dream" to people that could never afford it. The banks and loan companies broke their own rules of lending and allowed the same thing to happen. They then sold the worthless paper as good notes and morons bought it believing that they could get rid of the notes before they were due. Everyone was living on Fantasy Island until reality hit.

      Right now, Capitalism is trying to get enough traction to pull the market out of the mud hole but both the Democrats and Republicans keep greasing the rope with their "incentives" and Government Intervention. Meanwhile, the Conservatives (us) are sitting by quietly saying to each other " We told them and they wouldn't listen.". We speak to ourselves because when we try to speak to the masses, no one cares.

    11. Seerak says:

      Joseph Hill: where were YOU? I eagerly await your list of Leftists criticizing Bush for his increases in government spending.

      All I recall is a lot of whining about tax cuts that "we can't afford". I don't know about you, but I can afford a lot of tax cuts.

    12. Karl Knapstein CO. says:

      A 20-cent per gallon tax on Gasoline used to improve the energy efficiency of homes and multi family dwellings would save 30-40% in energy and create 500,000 new and sustainable jobs that are easily trained into. This tax is self regulated by personal driving habits and can be accompanied with a small tax credit for business. The tax code needs to be so simple a 9th grader could do it. The creation of new small businesses is the only solution that will sustain us through the huge inflation monster this deficit spending will eventually unleash. Government should be trimmed through the elimination of positions through a near zero replacement rate towards retirement and termination. Tenure must be stopped as it creates apathy and inefficient work habits.

    13. Jim in Washington St says:

      Big brains working for us have consistantly failed us. Ideologs and fearmongers should leave the room and I hope that grassroot opinions may find their way through the filters, otherwise know as Representatives and Senators, to generate an accurate vote based on the much smaller brains that could solve the economic problems with one lobe tied behind their back.

      Economics is not my forte as I am a mere residential roofing contractor scraping by now for 19 years. I am in league with Spiritof76 as an unheard voice. I call the filters. I send them emails. I implore them to oppose bailouts and their response leaves me quite empty. At least they could tell me they disagree rather than remind me that their brains are vastly larger than mine. Though I am swimming in a sea of liberals here in Washington state I rarely hear support for further stimulus.

      I just do not think we can spend our way out. I just do not get it. Maybe if my brain was just a little larger……..

    14. LPedroMachado, Portu says:

      I've just read the 2nd sentence and found "But their is nothing" instead of "But *there* is nothing". You'd better fix this.


    15. Pingback: Hope-a, hope-a, rope-a, dope! « Blithe Spirit, the Blog

    16. Pingback:   Despite The Rhetoric Not All Economists Think The $Trillion Stimulus Can Work. — Just Some Poor Schmuck

    17. Pingback: Tax cuts may work better than spending to stimulate the economy | Les Jones

    18. Peter Asher .. Orego says:

      Unemployment is a symptom of the disease of debt load. Even before the economy was suffering from the current job loss it was crashing from the fundamentals that will still be present when (if) new quantities of jobs are created.

      The two forms of consumer overhead are debt service and taxes. Cutting taxes does stimulate as future after-tax earnings become higher but this will be too little, too late. Spending power evolves SLOWLY from whatever future earnings continue to be generated.

      Cutting the costs of debt service generates instant purchasing power and continues for as much as thirty years. Under quantitative analysis it is by far the most powerful re-boost!

      See “A Stimulus That Keeps on Stimulating” and other writing @ — http://takeamericaforward.com/

      Excerpt below

      This recession was not caused by a credit crunch and it was not caused by the sub-prime crisis. The cause was that the economy was built on a debt bubble that expanded to a level of unsustainable debt service. The capability to produce goods and services expanded to the money supply allotted to it, but an economy that attains equilibrium on the advancement of purchasing power must inevitably contract when that advancement can no longer be maintained. . Defaulting mortgage debt was the proverbial last-straw-on-the-camel’s-back, the final load on this unsustainable debt.

      Debt service now claims a substantial portion of overall purchasing power. The portion remaining to drive the economy is therefore now less than it would be even on a no-credit, spend-it-as-you-earn-it basis. The economy that has expanded to fulfill the demand of earnings-plus-advanced-payment, must contract to the demand of earnings-minus-cost-of-debt-service. What for decades was an economy built on, “Buy now, pay later,” has become, “Pay now, buy later!”

    19. Jim, Wisconsin says:

      Hey, Ozzy is right again along with Jim but look at the bright side we are getting a treasury secretary that doesn't pay his taxes, maybe we can get away with that. I've written letters like Jim has and I got the same response I think it's time for a revolution, we need to clean house completely because this is getting to look like the Sopranos.

    20. Stan Armstrong Terre says:

      Put all of this on a national ballot and let american public decide what must be done and send all the politions home and this will go away.

    21. Pingback: Greg Mankiw v. Paul Krugman Hubris » KRUGMAN WATCH

    22. Tom, Pennsylvania says:

      We need to suck it up. The government got us into this mess and they need to get out of the world of capitalism. They don't listen, I agree with the roofer who says he is just one small voice…….so were the people who founded this country. We need to revolt(peacefully) against our representatives who are not representing us!!!! I do not understand why when the TARP monies that did not work, they would do it again. Infrastructure will not work…..it's been proven over and over again. I keep hearing that we are going to clean up the eduction system and build new schools, better equiped……has anyone taken a good look at our schools in the depressed socioeconomic areas of the big cities……it is not the building…..if that were true a one room school house would never have worked. We are missing the nuclear family in these areas, we are missing values, we have learned to accept poor behavior as "oh it just the times". The schooling of a child is still the responsibility of the family(mother AND father)….not the government. Providing new buildings with new equipment won't change the fact that these kids don't even come to school. Republicans need to return to their core values of small government and "free" enterprise.

    23. Jan, California says:

      It is time to let companies with poor business practices fail. Let the Big Three car companies go bankrupt and reorganize. Then they can start again. The unions are helping to destroy the public schools. Union agency shop and the tenure system are not in the interests of children but to enrich the labor union. The best, most enthusiastic teachers are not always the ones who have been teaching the longest.

      In California, the public schools are a mess, demanding more and more (nearly 60%) of the state budget while producing lower and lower test scores. No matter how much money is thrown at the "problem".

      I cannot spend more than I have and neither should government. People have been overspending with credit cards, equitylines and other means of lending. Buy now, pay later has become our nation's motto. People and government need to learn to live within their means. Now those of us who have been careful with our money are supposed to bail out those who have been stupid?

      Borrowing more money to start more layers of government will not solve the problems we have.

      Obama's freeze on salaries is a start but he needs to clean house completely, but I doubt that will happen. He has a lot of personal payback due from getting elected.

    24. Mike, Hickory, NC says:

      Sure, we, with our minds truly thinking, our eyes truly seeing, and, yes, our hearts truly feeling, could add more validating and verifying comments here to such ever increasing facts and examples which reveal that Obama and his allies (both Democrat and Republican) are Leftist government elitists promising the people "jobs" and more, yet robbing us of ever more of everything including (non-government) jobs, very much like the archetypical politicians "Shaking our hands with one hand, and robbing us blind with the other".

      However, yet again, to Leftist government elitists such as Obama and his allies, the facts don't count, only their "inevitable march of history" counts; a "march of history" which features the same dumbing-down for stinkin' thinkin' "class warfare" and blinding, numbing, dependence upon the collective; all of which is only too similar to "The Borg Collective" (of Hollywood "Star Trek" fame) which were also not only dumbed-down for and dependant upon "The Collective", but also insisted that "resistance is futile", similar to Leftist Marxists, etc, about their "inevitable march of history".

      Note: That also explains why Leftist government elitists, such as Obama, identify any and all dissent and opponents to them as being (quoting Obama) “on the wrong side of history”.

    25. Pingback: Stimulus Plan or Spending Spree | Cincinnatus News

    26. Pingback: Brain-Jockey » Blog Archive » Crunch Time: Stimulus 101

    27. Pingback: The Stimulus Plan – A Wing and A Prayer | Cincinnatus Blog /// Political, Social and Environmental Commentary

    28. Simon Gray, Scottsda says:

      Do Conservatives Have Smaller Brains?

      Some people’s brains are better suited to introspection than others -

      A specific region of the brain appears to be larger in individuals who are good at turning their thoughts inward and reflecting upon their decisions, according to new research published in the journal Science. This act of introspection — or "thinking about your thinking" — is a key aspect of human consciousness, though scientists have noted plenty of variation in peoples' abilities to introspect.1

      Neuroscientist Stephen Fleming and a team of UK researchers have found that people with more gray and white matter microstructures in a particular area of the prefrontal cortex tended to be more introspective, which is to say, better at evaluating their own performance.

      Conservatives are generally not introspective.

      They tend to have difficulty admitting when they make mistakes, they seem oblivious to their own behavior, and the consequences of it, and tend to blame others.

      Case and point: The enormous debt the US is struggling with now was created when the Conservatives were in control of the Congress and the White House. Yet they cannot admit this, and instead, blame the new Congress and White House.

      There is widespread agreement that the current economic crisis has been brought about by poor leadership and greed.

      In a recent Globe & Mail newspaper article, Professor Henry Mintzberg, of McGill University in Montreal, suggests that much of the blame for economic failure can be tied directly to the failure of management education. Professor Mintzberg goes on to point out that lack of introspection in corporate America prevents leaders from learning from their own mistakes.2

      To this day former President George W Bush has never admitted he did anything wrong.

      Was his failure as a leader due to having a smaller prefrontal cortex that blocked

      him from being introspective?

      Quick to anger –

      The ventral area of the prefrontal cortex is known to be crucial for constraining impulsive outbursts. Persons with a predisposition to anger and aggression have been found to have decreased activity in this brain area.

      In August of 2004, Darin Dougherty, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, submitted a study, reported in the Vol. 61 No. 8, of the Archives of General Psychiatry.3

      In this study, when the subjects started getting angry, blood flow increases in the left ventromedial prefrontal cortex were significantly greater in the healthy control subjects than in the subjects who were prone to anger.

      Attaching emotional content to logistical situations is a behavior that is often exhibited by Conservatives.

      If you watch Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, or Ann Coulter, you will see that they repeatedly attach emotional content to logistical behavior. And, the emotion they attach most often is anger.

      Do these people have decreased brain activity?

      Is the blood just not flowing to their brains?

      Impaired ability -

      Since the 1980s, scientists have correlated damage to the prefrontal cortex with psychopathic behavior and the inability to make morally and socially acceptable decisions.

      Researchers at the University of Sweden have found the prefrontal cortex to be precisely the area of the brain that is impaired in murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals who repeatedly re-offend. At the November 1999 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Asa Bergvall and her colleagues presented findings on their study of violent offenders.4

      The brains of the violent offenders performed normally in every task except the one, which taps prefrontal function, "In that,” says Bergvall, “It was as if they were retarded."

      They had an impaired ability to shift their attention in order to view the world in a different way – a function linked to the lateral prefrontal cortex.

      Former president George W Bush was often called retarded, because of his impaired ability to shift his view of the world.

      But he was no violent criminal.

      Neurology professor Dr. Antonio Damasio and colleagues at the University of Iowa College of Medicine reported on two cases of early brain damage to the prefrontal cortex. As adults, both patients showed an almost total lack of guilt.5

      ?University of Southern California psychopathologist Adrian Raine has documented prefrontal damage in people with Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is characterized by irresponsibility and deceitfulness, lack of emotional depth and remorse.6

      His article in the Archives of General Psychiatry, February 1, 2000 stated that, “The antisocial men actually had 11-14% less brain tissue volume in their prefrontal cortexes, compared to normal males – a deficit of about two teaspoons' worth."

      What if George W. Bush has 5-6% less brain tissue volume in his prefrontal cortexes?

      Not enough to make him a violent criminal, but just enough to block introspection.

      His presidency was certainly characterized by irresponsibility, deceitfulness, and lack of remorse.

      Was this because he was one teaspoon short of a full brain?

      The chicken or the egg -

      Conservatives are called Conservatives because they share similar beliefs.

      Consequently, they exhibit similar behaviors.

      Are their beliefs and behaviors similar because they lack the ability for introspection?

      Do people become Conservatives because they have smaller prefrontal cortexes?

      1 – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/1009

      2 – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business

      3 – http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/61/

      4 – http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/head.html

      5 – http://www.crimetimes.org/00a/w00ap4.htm

      6 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19833485?ordin

    29. Pingback: Another punch to the gut of Keynesian economic “stimulus” | RedState

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