President Obama says “every economist who’s looked at it says that the Recovery Act has done its job”—i.e., the stimulus bill has turned the economy around. That’s nonsense. Opinions differ widely and many leading economists believe that its impact has been small. Why? The expectation of future spending and future tax hikes to pay for the stimulus and Mr. Obama’s vast expansion of government are offsetting the direct short-run expansionary effect. That is standard in all macroeconomic theories.
So, as I and others warned in 2008, the permanent government expansion and higher tax rate agenda is a classic example of what not to do during bad economic times. Worse yet, all the subsidies, bailouts, regulations and mandates are forcing noncommercial decisions on the economy, which now awaits literally thousands of new diktats as a result of things like ObamaCare and the financial reform bill. The uncertainty is impeding investment and hiring.
The president does not say that economists agree that the high future taxes to finance the stimulus will hurt the economy. (The University of Chicago’s Harald Uhlig estimates $3.40 of lost output for every dollar of government spending.) Either the president is not being told of serious alternative viewpoints, or serious viewpoints are defined as only those that support his position. In either case, he is being ill-served by his staff.
Frankly, Obama’s truth deficit is, if anything, bigger than the Federal deficit. His grandiose claims are carp (respell as necessary). I’m not inclined to blame his words on his staff, either. I suspect this is all coming from him.