The news came out on Inauguration Day, The Congressional Budget office (CBO) a group of economists (whose head is appointed by Democratic Congressional leaders) reported that much of the “infrastructure” money included in the current Democratic Party “stimulus” package will not enter the the economy until after 2010. They say that less than half of that $355 billion for infrastructure would actually be spent in the next two year.
Obviously that is not the best approach for a stimulus plan which is supposed to pump up the economy immediately.
Last week the President’s spin-master, David Axelrod told Fox News that the CBO findings weren’t important. He said the government has no choice but to act quickly in the current “national emergency” and “that a lot of these investments are ones that are going to pay dividends in the short term and the long term.”
Other Democrats on the Sunday “spin circuit” were doing their best to downplay the CBO report.
It seems that we are about to spend nearly one Billion Dollars on a stimulus that will be to slow to actually help us. And the supposed “Transparent” Democratic party is trying to shield us from the truth:
The Stimulus Time Machine
That $355 billion in spending isn’t about the economy.
The stimulus bill currently steaming through Congress looks like a legislative freight train, but given last week’s analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, it is more accurate to think of it as a time machine. That may be the only way to explain how spending on public works in 2011 and beyond will help the economy today.
According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, a mere $26 billion of the House stimulus bill’s $355 billion in new spending would actually be spent in the current fiscal year, and just $110 billion would be spent by the end of 2010. This is highly embarrassing given that Congress’s justification for passing this bill so urgently is to help the economy right now, if not sooner.
And the red Congressional faces must be very red indeed, because CBO’s analysis has since vanished into thin air after having been posted early last week on the Appropriations Committee Web site. Officially, the committee says this is because the estimates have been superseded as the legislation has moved through committee. No doubt.
In addition to suppressing the CBO analysis, Democrats have derided it. Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D., Wis.) called it “off the wall,” never mind that CBO is now run by Democrats. Mr. Obey also suggested that it would be a mistake to debate the stimulus “until the cows come home.” We’d settle for a month or two, so at least the voters can inspect the various Congressional cattle they’re buying with that $355 billion.
The stimulus bill is also a time machine in the sense that it’s based on an old, and largely discredited, economic theory. As Harvard economist Robert Barro pointed out on these pages last Thursday, the “stimulus” claim is based on something called the Keynesian “multiplier,” which is that each $1 of spending the government “injects” into the economy yields 1.5 times that in greater output. There’s little evidence to support this theory, but you have to admire its beauty because it assumes the government can create wealth out of thin air. If it were true, the government should spend $10 trillion and we’d all live in paradise.
The problem is that the money for this spending boom has to come from somewhere, which means it is removed from the private sector as higher taxes or borrowing. For every $1 the government “injects,” it must take $1 away from someone else — either in taxes or by issuing a bond. In either case this leaves $1 less available for private investment or consumption. Mr. Barro wrote about this way back in 1974 in his classic article, “Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?”, in the Journal of Political Economy. Larry Summers and Paul Krugman must have missed it.
The government spending will be a net stimulus only if its $1 goes to more productive purposes than those to which private investors would have put that same $1. There are some ways we may want the government to spend money — on national defense, say — but that doesn’t mean it’s a stimulus.
A similar analysis applies to the tax cuts that are part of President Obama’s proposal. In contrast to the spending, at least the tax cuts will take effect immediately. But the problem is that Mr. Obama wants them to be temporary, which means taxpayers realize they will see no permanent increase in their after-tax incomes. Not being fools, Americans may either save or spend the money but they aren’t likely to change their behavior in ways that will spur growth. For Exhibit A, consider the failure of last February’s tax rebate stimulus, which was a bipartisan production of George W. Bush and Mr. Summers, who is now advising Mr. Obama.
To be genuinely stimulating, tax cuts need to be immediate, permanent and on the “margin,” meaning that they apply to the next dollar of income that an individual or business earns. This was the principle behind the Kennedy tax cuts of 1964, as well as the Reagan tax cuts of 1981, which finally took full effect on January 1, 1983.
If the Obama Democrats can’t abide this because it’s a “tax cut for the rich,” as an alternative they could slash the corporate tax to spur business incentives. The revenue cost of eliminating the corporate tax wouldn’t be any more than their proposed $355 billion in new spending, and we guarantee its “multiplier” effects on growth would be far greater. Research by Mr. Obama’s own White House chief economist, Christina Romer, has shown that every $1 in tax cuts can increase output by as much as $3.
As for all of that new spending, CBO will release an updated analysis this week. And we anticipate that the budget analysts will in the interim have discovered that much more of that $355 billion will somehow find its way to “shovel-ready” projects that the Obama Administration can start building before the crocuses bloom. But in the real world, the CBO’s first estimate is likely to prove closer to the truth.
The spending portion of the stimulus, in short, isn’t really about the economy. It’s about promoting long-time Democratic policy goals, such as subsidizing health care for the middle class and promoting alternative energy. The “stimulus” is merely the mother of all political excuses to pack as much of this spending agenda as possible into a single bill when Mr. Obama is at his political zenith.
Apart from the inevitable waste, the Democrats are taking a big political gamble here. Congress and Mr. Obama are promoting this stimulus as the key to economic revival. Americans who know nothing about multipliers or neo-Keynesians expect it to work. The Federal Reserve is pushing trillions of dollars of monetary stimulus into the economy, and perhaps that along with a better bank rescue strategy will make the difference. But if spring and then summer arrive, and the economy is still in recession, Americans are going to start asking what they bought for that $355 billion.