The United States needs a new economic stimulus plan that pumps billions of dollars into infrastructure projects and budget relief for cash-strapped state and local governments, Democratic lawmakers said on Sunday ... Rep. Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican who serves as House minority leader, said he would support a stimulus plan if it did not include massive public works spending and budget bailouts for states that overspent on health care and other social programs.
Why Blunt is opposed to maximizing the bang for the buck from the new fiscal stimulus proposal is beyond me. Senator Schumer and Robert Rubin support more spending now on infrastructure. So do I. But wait you say – am I not one of those deficit hawks like Lawrence Summers?
The idea seems to have taken hold in recent days that because of the unfortunate need to bail out the financial sector, the nation will have to scale back its aspirations in other areas such as healthcare, energy, education and tax relief. This is more wrong than right. We have here the unusual case where economic analysis actually suggests that dismal conclusions are unwarranted and the events of the last weeks suggest that for the near term, government should do more, not less. First, note that there is a major difference between a $700bn (€479bn, £380bn) programme to support the financial sector and $700bn in new outlays. No one is contemplating that the $700bn will simply be given away. All of its proposed uses involve either purchasing assets, buying equity in financial institutions or making loans that earn interest … Second, the usual concern about government budget deficits is that the need for government bonds to be held by investors will crowd out other, more productive, investments or force greater dependence on foreign suppliers of capital. To the extent that the government purchases assets such as mortgage-backed securities with increased issuance of government debt, there is no such effect. Third, since Keynes we have recognised that it is appropriate to allow government deficits to rise as the economy turns down if there is also a commitment to reduce deficits in good times. After using the economic expansion of the 1990s to bring down government indebtedness, the US made a serious error in allowing deficits to rise over the last eight years. But it would be compounding this error to override what economists call “automatic stabilisers” by seeking to reduce deficits in the near term. Indeed, in the current circumstances the case for fiscal stimulus – policy actions that increase short-term deficits – is stronger than at any time in my professional lifetime.
Well said Larry. It’s a shame that we’ll likely have to wait until January 20, 2009 so that President Obama can urge the next Congress to do what we really need to implement ASAP.