Monday, February 24, 2014

Five Years Later...Why the Stimulus And Keynesian Economics Failed

Remember this chart:
This is what Obama's economic advisers predicted would happen with or without the passage of the $787 billion Stimulus Package (aka the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009).  Of course, implied in that chart is that economic activity, as measured by our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), would also return to normal levels by the First Quarter of 2014.

The plain fact is that real unemployment did even worse than Obama's "Without Recovery Plan" with the peak unemployment rate hitting 10.1% in 2010.  Today, when it should be at 5%, we are still struggling at 6.6%.  When Obama took office there were 155.2 million workers in the labor force.  Despite the fact that nearly 7.5 million new workers should have entered the workforce over the last 5 years, the number has only inched up to 155.4 million. That 7.5 million, euphemistically called discouraged workers, have just given up looking for work.  As a result, they are no longer counted as being in the workforce. So much for "real" job creation.

And, GDP?  Well, its seen the worst recovery since the Great Depression with an average of about 1.97% growth per year since the recession ended in 2009.   Normally, growth should be 50% greater than that; at 3% or higher. Obviously, the stimulus didn't work as promised; and, even today, three-quarters of Americans still think we are in a recession.

While there are several reasons why Obama's Keynesian-Style Stimulus Package failed, the primary reason lies in the false belief that, when the economy slips into recession as a result of slack consumer spending, that lack of spending can be made up by increasing government expenditures.  But, this is just ridiculous.  The simple fact is that consumers don't spend like governments.  They don't build roads or bridges and they don't spend their money fixing them.  So, instead of stimulating the existing parts of our economy that are in the process of dying off, the Keynesian stimulus winds up  stimulating a subset of the economy that had nothing to do with the reason that the economy faltered in the first place.  What's worse, most of these projects have a low labor cost to materials and equipment costs ratios.  That is why you wind up with statistics that show that, at the very least, it cost the taxpayers $185,000 for each job that was supposedly created.

Another problem with using federal and state construction projects as a means of trying to stimulate the economy is the fact that any spending and job creation will always be short lived.  If the project is 1 month long or 3 years long, that part of the economy that is being stimulated will only benefit as long as the project is still alive. Once its over, so are the jobs and so is the spending.

Lastly, there's the argument by the Democrats that every dollar spent returns $1.50 in economic activity.  To some extent that's true, but $1.50 is an average.  Depending on how labor intensive the  effort is, the returns will range between 70 cents (a loss) and $1.90.  Heavy construction projects are more towards 70 cents than anywhere near $1.50 because the labor costs are so low relative to the overall cost of the project.  Thus, the potential for any true economic expansion is lost. More importantly, the stimulus is a drag on everyone's wallet because deficit spending devalues all the dollars that are in the economy.   This weak dollar effect means that things will cost more; especially imported items.  For example, oil, which is priced worldwide on the basis of the strength or weakness of the U.S. dollar, has dramatically risen since 2009.  The result has been that gasoline prices rose from $1.74/gallon in 2009 to the current rate of $3.63. This is despite the fact we are now awash in new, domestic oil as a result of fracking and other new technologies. In contrast, natural gas, which is not traded in terms of the value of the dollar, has seen its prices fall from $12.49 a cubic ton to $9.40 from 2009 to 2012.  All because of fracking.

Despite whatever spin the White House puts on the stimulus results, it was nothing but a failure and, I think, definitive proof that Keynesian economics is simply another tool for left-wing politicians to grow the government and redistribute wealth.


The Worst Four Years Of GDP Growth In History: Yes, We Should Be Worried:

As Obama starts sixth year, 74 percent say US still in recession:

White House Says The Stimulus Cost Per Job is $185,000; not $278,000:

Politifact: Every Dollar of Spending Returns Between $0.70 & $1.90 in Increase Economic Activity:

A Scorecard on the economy under Obama:

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