Tim Brinton

The Stimulus Ostriches

Some opponents of the Obama administration's stimulus package believe that the situation is not dire enough to warrant, while others believe that it will not deliver enough stimulus to be worth the increase in debt. But the strangest opponents of all - a large group that includes both Marxists and classical economists - maintain that stimulus packages simply do not work, ever.

BERKELEY – Of all the strange things that have happened this winter, perhaps the strangest has been the emergence of large-scale Republican Party opposition to the Obama administration's effort to keep American unemployment from jumping to 10% or higher. There is no doubt that had John McCain won the presidential election last November, a very similar deficit-spending stimulus package to the Obama plan – perhaps with more tax cuts and fewer spending increases – would have moved through Congress with unanimous Republican support.

As N. Gregory Mankiw said of a stimulus package back in 2003, when he was President George W. Bush's chief economic advisor, this is not rocket science. Deficit spending in a recession, he said, “help[s] maintain the aggregate demand for goods and services. There is nothing novel about this. It is very conventional short-run stabilization policy: you can find it in all of the leading textbooks...”

I can understand (though I disagree with) opponents of the stimulus plan who believe that the situation is not that dire; that the government spending will be slow and wasteful (whereas properly targeted tax cuts would provide a more effective stimulus); and thus that it would have been better to defeat Obama’s stimulus bill and try again in a couple of months.

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