11.24.2009 Policy Points

A Good Question

At Grasping Reality with Both Hands, economist Brad DeLong poses an interesting question:

… the Obama administration’s fiscal boost program has also significantly helped the economy: aid to impacted states has been a big win, the jury is still out on the effect of the tax cuts in the stimulus, and the flow of government spending on a whole variety of relatively useful causes is in train and is boosting production and employment in the same way that everyone’s boost to spending boosts production and employment. And the cost of carrying the extra debt incurred is extraordinarily low: $12 billion a year of extra taxes would be enough to finance the fiscal boost program at current interest rates, and for that cost American taxpayers will get an extra $1 trillion of produced goods and services and employment will be higher by about ten million job-years.

Thus the big valid complaints about policy over the past fourteen months are not that it has run up the national debt and not that it has rewarded the princes of Wall Street, but rather that it has, if anything, been on too small a scale–that we ought to have done more.

Yet these policies appear, somehow, to be political losers in Washington right now: nobody is proposing to do more along the same lines. This is strange: usually when something works the natural impulse is to do it again.

So what is going on?

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