If you were hoping that the recent economic report would bring a change in direction from the White House on taxes, you were no doubt let down. The Commerce Department reported on Friday that gross domestic product (GDP) grew by only 1.5% in the second quarter of the year and consumer spending was down, once again showing the weakness of the economic recovery.
When pressed on whether or not the weak economic growth would bring a change in direction from President Obama, who is trying pushing tax hike proposal through Congress, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted that tax hikes during a slow economy weren’t a bad idea. Alan Krueger, President Obama’s top economic adviser, also said that the reason the economy was lagging was because state governments need more stimulus spending.
It seems, however, that not only will the White House push more stimulus gimmicks, they are going to continue to push a tax hike that will have anywhere from a 1.3% to 2.9% contraction in the economy.
But Keynesians pushing a tax hike during tough economy times is question, one that would probably earn the ire of the man himself. Christina Romer, who served as an economic adviser to President Obama, once noted that tax hikes hurt the economy:
President Barack Obama and Democrat have time and time again repeated the talking point that the $831 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed in early 2009, helped save the economy, which was suffering the effects of a severe recession, and helped create jobs.
However, a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) via James Pethokoukis shows that the stimulus bill was largely wasteful considering its affects on unemployment, with a high cost for what jobs were created:
When [the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] was being considered, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that it would increase budget deficits by $787 billion between fiscal years 2009 and 2019. CBO now estimates that the total impact over the 2009–2019 period will amount to about $831 billion.
By CBO’s estimate, close to half of that impact occurred in fiscal year 2010, and more than 90 percent of ARRA’s budgetary impact was realized by the end of March 2012. CBO has estimated the law’s impact on employment and economic output using evidence about the effects of previous similar policies and drawing on various mathematical models that represent the workings of the economy. …
On that basis CBO estimates that ARRA’s policies had the following effects in the first quarter of calendar year 2012 compared with what would have occurred otherwise:
– They raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 0.1 percent and 1.0 percent,
– They lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.1 percentage points and 0.8 percentage points,
No, seriously, that is what this man has become. He recently blogged a chart on his blog (inappropriately—or maybe entirely appropriately—named “Conscience of a Liberal,”) showing first quarter growth for five countries:
He then goes, “Wait, what? Japan as star performer? What’s that about? Actually, no mystery.”
Japan’s economy expanded faster than estimated in the first quarter, boosted by reconstruction spending that’s poised to fade just as a worsening in Europe’s crisis threatens to curtail export demand.
So he then argues that the tsunami reconstruction has led to great economic growth, while so-called “austerity” (which isn’t actually austerity at all, if Krugman had bothered to pay attention) has doomed Italy.
It makes perfect sense! Absolutely! Let’s hit Japan with another tsunami that will kill over 15,000 people, injure 27,000 citizens, and make 3,155 go missing! If only the 2011 tsunami had destroyed even more than that paltry 130,000 buildings—if only it had actually caused Fukushima to go critical and explode—it would have created so much potential for rebuilding! It would have shot the Japanese GDP right over the moon!
President Obama claimed last night that his jobs plan would be paid for. “Everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything,” he said. In politics, it never gets more clear than that. Of course, obviously I question it. I question everything any politicians says. What surprised me was that even the Associated Press is questioning it.
THE FACTS: Obama did not spell out exactly how he would pay for the measures contained in his nearly $450 billion American Jobs Act but said he would send his proposed specifics in a week to the new congressional supercommittee charged with finding budget savings. White House aides suggested that new deficit spending in the near term to try to promote job creation would be paid for in the future – the “out years,” in legislative jargon – but they did not specify what would be cut or what revenues they would use.
Essentially, the jobs plan is an IOU from a president and lawmakers who may not even be in office down the road when the bills come due. Today’s Congress cannot bind a later one for future spending. A future Congress could simply reverse it.
Thank you AP.
For the record, this is the same problem one runs into when talking about spending cuts. Most of those cuts are deferred to the out years to ease the pinch in the short term, and most never materialize because, as the AP points out, Congress can’t tell a future Congress what they have to spend.
Regardless of what you think of the President’s jobs plan, his claim it will be paid for is dubious at best. As the AP piece points out, Obama must send his proposal to the Super Committee – which he does not control – and hope they accept it, then get it through Congress and then hope that these proposals are adhered to in the future.
Shortly after the 2008 presidential election, historian Michael Bechloss gushed with praise for President-Elect Barack Obama, declaring him to be “probably the smartest guy ever to become President”, and raving that his IQ is “off the charts”. When interviewer Don Imus inquired as to what Obama’s IQ is, Bechloss admitted that he did not know, but that did not keep him from gushing effusive praise. We are left to take a historian’s word for it, because Obama has steadfastly refused to release his college transcripts, and his policies while in office certainly do not lend credence to the claims of his brilliance. In fact, if we had to judge the president by the effectiveness of his policies, Obama would be the functional equivalent not of the class valedictorian, but of that weird kid that sat in the corner and ate paste while talking to himself.
On matters of the economy, the president and his advisors seem to be particularly clueless. Consider some statements from the administration of late:
In a recent video clip making the rounds, Obama responds to a question about the near $1 trillion “stimulus” package and its effect on the economy by laughing and then declaring “ ‘Shovel-ready’ was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” This is, you will recall, the same stimulus package that Obama demanded must be passed immediately if we were to stem the possibility of another Great Depression. We were promised (by Christina Romer, the first chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors) that if we passed it, unemployment would stay below 8%. Well, we DID pass it, and we have been rewarded with unemployment levels between 9-10+% for well over two years. Now, we have high unemployment AND staggering quantities of additional debt crippling the economy.
I have to disagree with Dave Weigel here. He wrote on Friday in Slate that the stimulus bill really didn’t fail, although everyone is saying it is:
Veterans of the stimulus wars talk about it that way—as a war. They lost. The implication of the loss is that Keynesian economics are, arguably, as discredited with voters as neoconservative theories were discredited when the invasion of Iraq failed to turn its neighbors into vibrant democracies, highways clogged with female drivers.
This week, we got a concrete example of what it meant to lose. The Weekly Standard published a back-of-the-cocktail-napkin analysis of the seventh quarterly report on the stimulus, stipulating that every job created by its spending has cost $278,000. Republicans, who’d previously said the stimulus created no jobs, immediately started repeating the $278,000 figure. They kept doing it even after the magazine followed up, suggesting that the cost-per-job could have been as low as $185,000. $278,000, $185,000. $0.00? It didn’t really matter, because the White House and liberal response was perfunctory. As the stimulus winds down, with most of the money spent, everyone knows that it failed.
Alan Blinder, the well-known professor of economics at Princeton, wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal today. He claims that the fiscal hawks who fear that the stimulus hasn’t worked are wrong, and that their refusal to give in on the unemployment benefits issue is misguided—what he labeled “pretty anti-Keynesian thinking.”
Well yes, Professor, that’s on purpose.
Blinder later specifies that he is referring to Keynes’s recommendations to increase federal spending, and to the idea of reducing taxes so as to increase consumers’ discretionary income and hence consumption.
But Blinder himself differs from Keynes (taking permission for his inconsistency from Ralph Waldo Emerson) in that he does not endorse tax reduction. Blinder’s own Keynes-bis prescription is, on the contrary, to raise taxes by allowing the Bush tax cuts to lapse (because “we can’t afford them”), and to “combine more stimulus in the short run with more budgetary restraint for the long run.”
This means, I assume, that the government should allow the tax cuts to lapse and use the increased tax revenue to prolong unemployment benefits (basically a redistribution of income). Then Congress should increase federal stimulus deficit spending and worry about the consequences later (believing, I guess, that wishful thinking today will restrain tomorrow’s budget in spite of itself).
Thus, he declares, “Obama’s Fiscal Priorities Are Right.”
I see several problems with his reasoning.
Bret Stephens has written a nice opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal of December 23. He cites poet Rudyard Kipling and author George Melloan who wrote The Great Money Binge: Spending Our Way to Socialism.
Melloan’s work, according to Stephens, shows “in exacting detail, not only how we came to our current crisis—thank you, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Alan Greenspan and Tom DeLay—but where [their flawed logic] is destined to take us again.”
All four of these politicians—yes, Greenspan is one of them—seem to subscribe to Keynes’s theory of what some have called “demand-side economics.” This theory says that consumption is the answer to an economic bust cycle, and that it’s okay to create the credit to pay for it through central-bank-created funny-money.
Stephens, citing Melloan I presume, and parodying Kipling, counters Keynes’s theory using the supply-siders’ argument:
”’[C]onsumption must be paid for with production” … if you don’t work (i.e. produce) you die (i.e., can’t consume).”
Stephens and Melloan have understood the evils of Keynesian spending-for-prosperity, to be sure; but they have missed an essential point, which is this:
Consumption is purely a mechanism by which producers share among each other what they have already produced.
(See this post and the subsequent two posts for a more detailed example of this process.)
Written by Daniel J. Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
I almost feel sorry for the Obama administration’s spin doctors. Every month, they probably wait for the unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics with the same level of excitement that people on death row wait for their execution date.
This has been going on for a while, and today’s new data provide another good example.
As the chart below indicates, the White House promised that the unemployment rate today would be almost 5 percent if we enacted the so-called stimulus back in 2009. Instead, the new numbers show that the jobless rate is 7.9 percent, almost 3.0 percentage points higher.
I enjoy using this chart to indict Obamanomics, in part because it’s a two-fer. I get to criticize the administration’s economic record, and I simultaneously get to take a jab at Keynesian spending schemes.
What’s not to love?
That being said, I don’t think the above chart is completely persuasive. The White House argues, with some justification, that these data simply show that they underestimated the initial severity of the recession. There’s some truth to that, and I’ll be the first to admit that it wouldn’t be fair to blame Obama for a bleak trendline that existed when he took office (but I will blame him for continuing George W. Bush’s policies of excessive spending and costly intervention).
That’s why I think the data from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve are more damning. They show all the recessions and recoveries in the post-World War II era, which presumably provides a more neutral benchmark with which to judge the Obama record.
The “We the People” petitions that can be created on the White House website have become incredibly popular in recent months. Through this site, a user can submit a petition and elicit a response from the White House once it has crossed the 25,000 signature threshold.
The site picked up recognition because of petitions created asking the White House to let states peacefully secede after President Obama won re-election in November. Other petitions that have been created include calls for the White House to legalize marijuana, allow Americans to opt-out of ObamaCare, and to support the NRA’s “National School Shield” prgogram.
There have also been some humorous and rather asburd petitions created. But perhaps the best one was the petition urging the White House to build the Death Star.