Sunday, July 12, 2009

Second Stimulus Debate: Geithner vs. Krugman and Delong

by Calculated Risk on 7/12/2009 09:04:00 PM

From Treasury Secretary Geithner (via Tom Petruno at the LA Times):

"I think all economists believe, and this was inherent in the design of the program, that the biggest thrust or force would start to take effect in the second half of this year. And we’re going to start to see that happen. But I don’t think that’s a judgment we need to make now, can’t really make it now prudently, responsibly."
From Brad Delong: Fiscal Policy: The Obama Administration Is Not Making Much Sense These Days
Last December the Obama administration ... decided on a fiscal stimulus package which they believed would have minor effects on the economy in the first two quarters of 2009 and major effects--would push unemployment down below what it would other wise have been by more than half a percentage point--starting in the third quarter of 2009. They believed that the economy was not that weak, and that with the fiscal stimulus package taking effect unemployment would be peaking now at a rate of 7.9%.
The financial crisis of last fall hit the economy's levels of production, spending, and employment much harder than people thought at the time. If we had known then what we know now, it would have been prudent then to propose twice as large a fiscal stimulus program as the Obama administration in fact did propose.
If I were running the government, I would be trying to make up that GDP shortfall right now: I would be rushing a clean $170 billion--$500 per citizen--aid-to-states-that-maintain-effort package through the congress this week.
Recovery Unemployment Rate Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph (similar to Brad's) compares the BLS reported monthly unemployment rate (in red) with the Obama economic forecast from January 10th: The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

Geithner is correct about the stimulus kicking in during the 2nd half of 2009, and Delong agrees. But Delong is pointing out that the economy is in much worse shape than originally expected, and he argues if the Obama Administration knew in January what we know today, the package would have been much larger. Maybe. But thinking back - there was a huge political problem with the word "trillion" - so a much larger package would have been very difficult (although the composition could have been different).

From Paul Krugman: Vegematic policy advocacy
Like Brad, I’m not too happy with the policy justifications we’re getting from the administration. It’s perfectly clear that the stimulus was too small; I think they know that too. But they’ve made a political judgment that (a) they can’t push another round through and (b) the thing to do right now is defend the policy they already have.

Maybe they’re right.
My guess is another stimulus package is coming - but the Obama Administration is in a political bind and they will have to wait a few more months. The second package will probably be introduced after the third quarter - or once the unemployment rate reaches 10% - and my guess is it will be about half the size of the package proposed by Dr. Delong.