Tag Archives: fiscal stimulus

Did Obama Turn Around the Economy?

With November’s election fast approaching, the Republican candidates seeking to challenge President Barack Obama claim that his policies have done nothing to support recovery from the recession that he inherited in January 2009. If anything, they claim, his fiscal stimulus made matters worse.  And, despite recent improvement, the level of unemployment indeed remains far too high.not blame George W. Bush for the recession that began two months after he took office in 2001. There hadn’t yet been time for bad policies to damage the economy.)

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Recap: Obama Recovery, Emerging Markets & 2012 Crash

A recent video interview from Project Syndicate recaps some of my recent op-eds.  It covers the following territory:

  •           The Obama Recovery.    The U.S. economy was in free fall in late 2008, whether measured by GDP statistics, the monthly jobs numbers, or inter-bank spreads.     Was the end of the recession in mid-2009 attributable to policies adopted by President Obama?   A full evaluation of that question to economists’ standards would require delving into the complexity of mathematical models.  The public generally has a simpler standard:   was the impact big enough to be visible to the naked eye?   Amazingly, the answer is “yes.”   Whichever of those statistics one looks at, and whether it is coincidence or not:  the economic free-fall ended almost precisely the month that Obama took office, January 2009.
  •           Emerging markets have generally had much better economic fundamentals over the last decade than advanced economies.    For example, one third of developing countries have succeeded in breaking the historical syndrome of procyclical (destabilizing) fiscal policy.   For the first time, they took advantage of the boom of 2003-08 to strengthen their budget balances, which allowed a fiscal easing when the global recession hit in 2008-09.
  •           The 15-year cycle in EMs.  Market swings that start out based firmly on fundamentals can eventually go too far.   Some emerging markets like Turkey look vulnerable this year.  A crash would fit the biblical pattern: seven fat years, followed by seven lean years.  Here are the last three cycles of capital flows to developing countries:
    • 1975-81: 7 fat years (“recycling petrodollars”)
    • 1982: crash (the international debt crisis)
    • 1983-1989: 7 lean years (the “Lost Decade” in Latin America)
    • 1990-1996: 7 fat years (Emerging Market boom)
    • 1997: crash (the East Asia crisis)
    • 1997-2003: 7 lean years (currency crises spread globally)
    • 2003-2011: 7 fat years (the triumph of the BRICs)
    • 2012: ?
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Americans save their tax cuts => Federal spending gives more bang-for-buck stimulus.

Personal saving rose again in the second quarter. “Does this mean the stimulus tax cut has failed, as the 2008 tax cut stimulus did?”, asks The National Journal.

My answer:

Martin Feldstein and others predicted that the tax-cut component of the 2009 fiscal stimulus package would have substantially less expansionary bang-for-the-buck than the spending component of the package, because much of the tax cut would be saved, as had been the case with the 2008 tax cut.  (“Bang for the buck” in this case could be defined as demand stimulus divided by budget cost.)   We knew this from Milton Friedman’s permanent income hypothesis, or even from good old Keynesian multiplier theory.

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A New Depression? The Lessons of the 1930s

          We often hear the question “isn’t this economic crisis becoming as bad as the Great Depression?” Economists can offer a variety of reassurances, but each of them is quite circumscribed:
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Is $800 Billion Too Big or Too Small? Yes.

 

           Congress has finally agreed on a $790 billion stimulus package.   Is it too small, as many Democrats claim (such as Paul Krugman), or too big, as many Republicans claim (such as the minority party leadership in Congress)?     The answer is yes.     It is too big and too small.

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