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Old 12-17-2008, 11:49 AM   #1
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The Ultimate Stimulus Pro and Con thread

In this thread I'll post pro and con stimulus articles to keep it less messy and having the subject spill over to other threads. Feel free to post your economic opinions and articles from any side of the political spectrum.
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Old 12-17-2008, 11:50 AM   #2
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Krugman would be a good place to start:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/15/op...gman.html?_r=1

European Crass Warfare
By PAUL KRUGMAN
So here’s the situation: the economy is facing its worst slump in decades. The usual response to an economic downturn, cutting interest rates, isn’t working. Large-scale government aid looks like the only way to end the economic nosedive.

But there’s a problem: conservative politicians, clinging to an out-of-date ideology — and, perhaps, betting (wrongly) that their constituents are relatively well positioned to ride out the storm — are standing in the way of action.

No, I’m not talking about Bob Corker, the Senator from Nissan — I mean Tennessee — and his fellow Republicans, who torpedoed last week’s attempt to buy some time for the U.S. auto industry. (Why was the plan blocked? An e-mail message circulated among Senate Republicans declared that denying the auto industry a loan was an opportunity for Republicans to “take their first shot against organized labor.”)

I am, instead, talking about Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and her economic officials, who have become the biggest obstacles to a much-needed European rescue plan.

The European economic mess isn’t getting very much attention here, because we’re understandably focused on our own problems. But the world’s other economic superpower — America and the European Union have roughly the same G.D.P. — is arguably in as much trouble as we are.

The most acute problems are on Europe’s periphery, where many smaller economies are experiencing crises strongly reminiscent of past crises in Latin America and Asia: Latvia is the new Argentina; Ukraine is the new Indonesia. But the pain has also reached the big economies of Western Europe: Britain, France, Italy and, the biggest of all, Germany.

As in the United States, monetary policy — cutting interest rates in an effort to perk up the economy — is rapidly reaching its limit. That leaves, as the only way to avert the worst slump since the Great Depression, the aggressive use of fiscal policy: increasing spending or cutting taxes to boost demand. Right now everyone sees the need for a large, pan-European fiscal stimulus.

Everyone, that is, except the Germans. Mrs. Merkel has become Frau Nein: if there is to be a rescue of the European economy, she wants no part of it, telling a party meeting that “we’re not going to participate in this senseless race for billions.”

Last week Peer Steinbrück, Mrs. Merkel’s finance minister, went even further. Not content with refusing to develop a serious stimulus plan for his own country, he denounced the plans of other European nations. He accused Britain, in particular, of engaging in “crass Keynesianism.”

Germany’s leaders seem to believe that their own economy is in good shape, and in no need of major help. They’re almost certainly wrong about that. The really bad thing, however, isn’t their misjudgment of their own situation; it’s the way Germany’s opposition is preventing a common European approach to the economic crisis.

To understand the problem, think of what would happen if, say, New Jersey were to attempt to boost its economy through tax cuts or public works, without this state-level stimulus being part of a nationwide program. Clearly, much of the stimulus would “leak” away to neighboring states, so that New Jersey would end up with all of the debt while other states got many if not most of the jobs.

Individual European countries are in much the same situation. Any one government acting unilaterally faces the strong possibility that it will run up a lot of debt without creating much domestic employment.

For the European economy as a whole, however, this kind of leakage is much less of a problem: two-thirds of the average European Union member’s imports come from other European nations, so that the continent as a whole is no more import-dependent than the United States. This means that a coordinated stimulus effort, in which each country counts on its neighbors to match its own efforts, would offer much more bang for the euro than individual, uncoordinated efforts.

But you can’t have a coordinated European effort if Europe’s biggest economy not only refuses to go along, but heaps scorn on its neighbors’ attempts to contain the crisis.

Germany’s big Nein won’t last forever. Last week Ifo, a highly respected research institute, warned that Germany will soon be facing its worst economic crisis since the 1940s. If and when this happens, Mrs. Merkel and her ministers will surely reconsider their position.

But in Europe, as in the United States, the issue is time. Across the world, economies are sinking fast, while we wait for someone, anyone, to offer an effective policy response. How much damage will be done before that response finally comes?
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Old 12-17-2008, 11:52 AM   #3
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The ugly spectre of 'new Keynesianism'

The ugly spectre of 'new Keynesianism'
Peter Foster, Financial Post
Published: Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Zombie Keynesianism, with its promise of 10,000-volt stimulus, continues to lurch around the political scene, while John Maynard Keynes' acolytes struggle to gussy up his policy Frankenstein for another prime time appearance.

Chief among Lord Keynes' public proponents are economist Joseph Stiglitz and his biographer, Robert (Lord) Skidelsky.

Professor Stiglitz recently wrote in Vanity Fair of the importance of understanding the roots of the present crisis. "The battle for the past will determine the battle for the present," he wrote, reflecting communications strategy from Nineteen Eighty-Four. "So it's crucial to get the history straight."

It is indeed crucial to understand the past, but rather than clarifying Keynesian history, both Messrs. Skidelsky and Stiglitz seem intent on shoving inconvenient truths down the memory hole, and engaging in rhetoric rather than objective analysis.

There is an old economic joke: "Sure, it fails in practice but does it work in theory?" The approach of Messrs. Stiglitz and Skidelsky is to bury the evidence of practice, demonize straw-man opposition and not so much establish the theory as simply assert its moral credentials.

No comment has been more eagerly leapt upon by interventionists than Alan Greenspan's mea culpa about his misplaced faith in markets. In a piece in last Sunday's New York Times, Lord

Skidelsky suggested that since the case for light regulation lies in the market "efficiency" that Mr. Greenspan found wanting, then the free-market capitalism jig is up.

In fact, the case for free markets since Adam Smith has not been that they are perfect, but that they represent an astonishing co-ordinating mechanism that government attempts to improve -- beyond the protection of property, and the enforcement of contracts -- at everybody's peril.

If Mr. Skidelsky is interested in mea culpas, meanwhile, a more relevant one is that of former British prime minister James Callaghan, who said, in 1976, "We used to think that you could just spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting government spending. I tell you, in all candour, that that option no longer exists; and that insofar as it ever did exist, it only worked by injecting bigger doses of inflation into the economy followed by higher levels of unemployment as the next step. That is the history of the past 20 years."

Lord Keynes was concerned about a very real problem in the 1930s: that economies might be "stuck" at a low level of output and a high level of unemployment, which he saw as a failure of classical economic theory. His analysis was contained in his book, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, which was published in 1936. Keynes claimed that such a phenomenon -- when individuals were, in their irrational fear, allegedly socking away cash in their mattresses -- required government expenditure to keep up "aggregate demand." It didn't matter where the government spent -- be it roads, pyramids or even wars -- such expenditure was needed to jolt the economy back to full employment.

Adam Smith had observed that "What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom." Keynes' version, as economist James Buchanan pointed out, turned this wisdom on its head: "What is folly in the conduct of a private family may be prudence in the conduct of the affairs of a great nation."

Spend yourself rich!

But how could government inject anything into an economy that it did not take out, either currently via taxes, or by taking on the burden of debt? In fact Keynes said that government deficits should be matched by corresponding surpluses in good times, but Keynesianism inevitably proved a one-way pendulum, as Professor Buchanan had warned. Meanwhile Friedrich Hayek, who was both Keynes' friend and rival, had pointed out that there was an even greater danger in any policy system that implied that governments knew best; it was called The Road to Serfdom.

Significantly, both Hayek and Buchanan were stigmatized for their apostasy, not least because Keynesianism -- with its stratospheric world-view and its promotion of "macroeconomics" -- proved wildly popular with both politicians and policy wonks.

As Milton Friedman, wrote: "Here was one of the most famous and respected economists in the world informing governments that the way to full employment was paved with higher spending and lower taxes. What more attractive advice could politicians wish for?"

Keynes was at least vaguely aware of the potential dangers of his policies, but chose to believe that the politicians to whom he gave advice shared his own sense of noblesse oblige.

In a famous letter congratulating him upon the publication of The Road to Serfdom, Keynes wrote to Hayek: "Dangerous acts can be done safely in a community which thinks and feels rightly, which would be the way to hell if they were executed by those who think and feel wrongly."

As Professor Friedman mischievously pointed out, Keynes' agreement with "virtually the whole" of The Road to Serfdom obviously did not extend to the chapter titled "Why the Worst Get on Top"!

Meanwhile Keynes' theories had other purely economic flaws, a major one of which was pointed out by Robert Lucas. Professor Lucas's theory of "rational expectations" pointed out that the success of Keynesian stimulus depended essentially on fooling all of the people all of the time. In fact, businessmen would tailor their decisions to government policies, thus neutralizing them.

Keynesianism has thus been found fatally wanting in both theory and practice, so why is it back? One reason is sheer political desperation, or as Professor Lucas put it, "I guess everyone is a Keynesian in a foxhole."

However, the support of Messrs Stiglitz, Skidelsky and other modern liberals, such as Paul Krugman, is also based on a fundamental distaste for free-market capitalism as the rule of greed and materialism(not to mention a system that deprives them of their rightful role as society's guardians).

Professor Stiglitz looks at the doughnut and sees only a hole: the economy in his eyes is everywhere plagued by "market failure." Lord Skidelsky's moralistic approach is on flagrant display in an article in the current Prospect magazine. He fulminates against materialism and "the corruption of money." He denigrates "off-shoring." He bemoans globalization and the "rape of nature." Above all, he projects a world in which a race of omniscient Keynesian geniuses make markets "well-behaved" and render globalization "efficient and acceptable."

Lord Skidelsky stresses with approval that Keynes was "a moralist as well as an economist. He believed that material wellbeing is a necessary condition of the good life, but that beyond a certain standard of comfort, its pursuit can produce corruption, both for the individual and for society."

So a guardian class must decide, presumably, what an acceptable dividing line between "comfort" and "corruption" will be. Otherwise, as Keynes hysterically suggested, "We are capable of shutting off the sun and the stars because they do not pay a dividend."

Such is the thinking behind the "new" Keynsianism. High moralism. Desperate politics. Terrible economics.
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Old 12-17-2008, 12:20 PM   #4
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Everyone, that is, except the Germans. Mrs. Merkel has become Frau Nein: if there is to be a rescue of the European economy, she wants no part of it, telling a party meeting that “we’re not going to participate in this senseless race for billions.”

Last week Peer Steinbrück, Mrs. Merkel’s finance minister, went even further. Not content with refusing to develop a serious stimulus plan for his own country, he denounced the plans of other European nations. He accused Britain, in particular, of engaging in “crass Keynesianism.”

Germany’s leaders seem to believe that their own economy is in good shape, and in no need of major help. They’re almost certainly wrong about that. The really bad thing, however, isn’t their misjudgment of their own situation; it’s the way Germany’s opposition is preventing a common European approach to the economic crisis.
I agree with them to not develop a stimulus plan. It wouldn't work imo...so I think saying that they misjudge the situation is just wrong.
But I agree with him that this behaviour is preventing common european plans. Honestly I don't know if I should find that good or bad.
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Old 12-17-2008, 11:24 PM   #5
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YouTube - The View 12/17/08 (4 of 5)

Here's some doom and gloom from a Dutch documentary about a possible run on the U.S. dollar with ominous music.

YouTube - The inevitable day the Dollar crashes
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Old 12-17-2008, 11:35 PM   #6
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Anyone who thought the dollar, or capitalism wouldn't fail in some way is a fool and hasn't paid attention to history...
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Old 12-18-2008, 12:16 PM   #7
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Double post
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Old 12-18-2008, 12:33 PM   #8
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Anyone who thought the dollar, or capitalism wouldn't fail in some way is a fool and hasn't paid attention to history...
The government controls interest rates and stoked borrowing by having low interest rates for a long time. Economists know that people save less and borrow more with very low interest rates. I would say the government created a moral hazard and greedy people dived in. Recessions are the necessary lessons to bring the economy back to an equilibrium of saving and spending. The government's role to me is to help move people from unproductive industries to productive ones but it would have been less painful to not have lowered the interest rates as low as they did in the past 20 years.

This generation will probably start saving more but you know future generations might get spoiled again and the government will manipulate to low interest rates again for too long and greedy people will start again with flipping assets. It happens every generation at least once. Those people who know what that means will save during the next boom and when the bust comes they will handle it better each time.

In the end there may not be a run on the dollar because the U.S. will have to raise interest rates if in a year from now deflation turns into inflation from all the printed money that's being created now. It all depends on when China wants to sell U.S. bonds. Until that point the world keeps looking at the U.S. dollar like it's a gold standard. The question will be to see which will happen first.
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Old 12-18-2008, 12:35 PM   #9
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This generation will probably start saving more but you know future generations might get spoiled again and the government will manipulate to low interest rates again for too long and greedy people will start again with flipping assets. It happens every generation at least once.
that's why I'm for a redistribution of taxes, otherwise I'll have to pay for all that's going on right now when I retire and sure my kids will...
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Old 12-18-2008, 12:40 PM   #10
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that's why I'm for a redistribution of taxes, otherwise I'll have to pay for all that's going on right now when I retire and sure my kids will...
Well we've had redistributionism for a long time anyways and there will always be some, but I understand your frustration.

Now that there are bailouts all kinds of industries and lobby groups are standing up and and saying "me too". Industries that are left out will feel cheated. This is why I'm against bailouts. It punishes those who did the right thing and creates more moral hazards.
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Old 12-18-2008, 12:57 PM   #11
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Well we've had redistributionism for a long time anyways and there will always be some, but I understand your frustration.
ok, but imo that's not enough... the whole welfare system could be a lot better, if those who have the money would pay just a little more than others.

A bailout would not only help a specific lobby. Everyone depends on each other in a way. So, I think I can't really say who gets punished and who would benefit from it.
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Old 12-29-2008, 05:32 PM   #12
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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/29/op...gman.html?_r=1

December 29, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
Fifty Herbert Hoovers
By PAUL KRUGMAN
No modern American president would repeat the fiscal mistake of 1932, in which the federal government tried to balance its budget in the face of a severe recession. The Obama administration will put deficit concerns on hold while it fights the economic crisis.

But even as Washington tries to rescue the economy, the nation will be reeling from the actions of 50 Herbert Hoovers — state governors who are slashing spending in a time of recession, often at the expense both of their most vulnerable constituents and of the nation’s economic future.

These state-level cutbacks range from small acts of cruelty to giant acts of panic — from cuts in South Carolina’s juvenile justice program, which will force young offenders out of group homes and into prison, to the decision by a committee that manages California state spending to halt all construction outlays for six months.

Now, state governors aren’t stupid (not all of them, anyway). They’re cutting back because they have to — because they’re caught in a fiscal trap. But let’s step back for a moment and contemplate just how crazy it is, from a national point of view, to be cutting public services and public investment right now.

Think about it: is America — not state governments, but the nation as a whole — less able to afford help to troubled teens, medical care for families, or repairs to decaying roads and bridges than it was one or two years ago? Of course not. Our capacity hasn’t been diminished; our workers haven’t lost their skills; our technological know-how is intact. Why can’t we keep doing good things?

It’s true that the economy is currently shrinking. But that’s the result of a slump in private spending. It makes no sense to add to the problem by cutting public spending, too.

In fact, the true cost of government programs, especially public investment, is much lower now than in more prosperous times. When the economy is booming, public investment competes with the private sector for scarce resources — for skilled construction workers, for capital. But right now many of the workers employed on infrastructure projects would otherwise be unemployed, and the money borrowed to pay for these projects would otherwise sit idle.

And shredding the social safety net at a moment when many more Americans need help isn’t just cruel. It adds to the sense of insecurity that is one important factor driving the economy down.

So why are we doing this to ourselves?

The answer, of course, is that state and local government revenues are plunging along with the economy — and unlike the federal government, lower-level governments can’t borrow their way through the crisis. Partly that’s because these governments, unlike the feds, are subject to balanced-budget rules. But even if they weren’t, running temporary deficits would be difficult. Investors, driven by fear, are refusing to buy anything except federal debt, and those states that can borrow at all are being forced to pay punitive interest rates.

Are governors responsible for their own predicament? To some extent. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in particular, deserves some jeers. He became governor in the first place because voters were outraged over his predecessor’s budget problems, but he did nothing to secure the state’s fiscal future — and he now faces a projected budget deficit bigger than the one that did in Gray Davis.

But even the best-run states are in deep trouble. Anyway, we shouldn’t punish our fellow citizens and our economy to spite a few local politicians.

What can be done? Ted Strickland, the governor of Ohio, is pushing for federal aid to the states on three fronts: help for the neediest, in the form of funding for food stamps and Medicaid; federal funding of state- and local-level infrastructure projects; and federal aid to education. That sounds right — and if the numbers Mr. Strickland proposes are huge, so is the crisis.

And once the crisis is behind us, we should rethink the way we pay for key public services.

As a nation, we don’t believe that our fellow citizens should go without essential health care. Why, then, does a large share of funding for Medicaid come from state governments, which are forced to cut the program precisely when it’s needed most?

An educated population is a national resource. Why, then, is basic education mainly paid for by local governments, which are forced to neglect the next generation every time the economy hits a rough patch?

And why should investments in infrastructure, which will serve the nation for decades, be at the mercy of short-run fluctuations in local budgets?

That’s for later. The priority right now is to fight off the attack of the 50 Herbert Hoovers, and make sure that the fiscal problems of the states don’t make the economic crisis even worse.
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Old 12-29-2008, 05:33 PM   #13
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http://www.europac.net/externalframe...=home&id=15036

December 29, 2008

There's No Pain-Free Cure for Recession: Peter Schiff's Editorial in Wall Street Journal

As recession fears cause the nation to embrace greater state control of the economy and unimaginable federal deficits, one searches in vain for debate worthy of the moment. Where there should be an historic clash of ideas, there is only blind resignation and an amorphous queasiness that we are simply sweeping the slouching beast under the rug.

With faith in the free markets now taking a back seat to fear and expediency, nearly the entire political spectrum agrees that the federal government must spend whatever amount is necessary to stabilize the housing market, bail out financial firms, liquefy the credit markets, create jobs and make the recession as shallow and brief as possible. The few who maintain free-market views have been largely marginalized.

Taking the theories of economist John Maynard Keynes as gospel, our most highly respected contemporary economists imagine a complex world in which economics at the personal, corporate and municipal levels are governed by laws far different from those in effect at the national level.

Individuals, companies or cities with heavy debt and shrinking revenues instinctively know that they must reduce spending, tighten their belts, pay down debt and live within their means. But it is axiomatic in Keynesianism that national governments can create and sustain economic activity by injecting printed money into the financial system. In their view, absent the stimuli of the New Deal and World War II, the Depression would never have ended.

On a gut level, we have a hard time with this concept. There is a vague sense of smoke and mirrors, of something being magically created out of nothing. But economics, we are told, is complicated.

It would be irresponsible in the extreme for an individual to forestall a personal recession by taking out newer, bigger loans when the old loans can't be repaid. However, this is precisely what we are planning on a national level.

I believe these ideas hold sway largely because they promise happy, pain-free solutions. They are the economic equivalent of miracle weight-loss programs that require no dieting or exercise. The theories permit economists to claim mystic wisdom, governments to pretend that they have the power to dispel hardship with the whir of a printing press, and voters to believe that they can have recovery without sacrifice.

As a follower of the Austrian School of economics I believe that market forces apply equally to people and nations. The problems we face collectively are no different from those we face individually. Belt tightening is required by all, including government.

Governments cannot create but merely redirect. When the government spends, the money has to come from somewhere. If the government doesn't have a surplus, then it must come from taxes. If taxes don't go up, then it must come from increased borrowing. If lenders won't lend, then it must come from the printing press, which is where all these bailouts are headed. But each additional dollar printed diminishes the value those already in circulation. Something cannot be effortlessly created from nothing.

Similarly, any jobs or other economic activity created by public-sector expansion merely comes at the expense of jobs lost in the private sector. And if the government chooses to save inefficient jobs in select private industries, more efficient jobs will be lost in others. As more factors of production come under government control, the more inefficient our entire economy becomes. Inefficiency lowers productivity, stifles competitiveness and lowers living standards.

If we look at government market interventions through this pragmatic lens, what can we expect from the coming avalanche of federal activism?

By borrowing more than it can ever pay back, the government will guarantee higher inflation for years to come, thereby diminishing the value of all that Americans have saved and acquired. For now the inflationary tide is being held back by the countervailing pressures of bursting asset bubbles in real estate and stocks, forced liquidations in commodities, and troubled retailers slashing prices to unload excess inventory. But when the dust settles, trillions of new dollars will remain, chasing a diminished supply of goods. We will be left with 1970s-style stagflation, only with a much sharper contraction and significantly higher inflation.

The good news is that economics is not all that complicated. The bad news is that our economy is broken and there is nothing the government can do to fix it. However, the free market does have a cure: it's called a recession, and it's not fun, easy or quick. But if we put our faith in the power of government to make the pain go away, we will live with the consequences for generations.

Mr. Schiff is president of Euro Pacific Capital and author of "The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets"
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Old 12-29-2008, 07:01 PM   #14
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In this thread I'll post pro and con stimulus articles to keep it less messy and having the subject spill over
I won't discuss 'pros and cons' or "less messy" or 'spill over' aspects


but. I will contribute this much,
for the best result, a stimulus plan should start
with some lotion
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Old 12-29-2008, 07:21 PM   #15
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But if we put our faith in the power of government to make the pain go away, we will live with the consequences for generations.
Too bad the New Deal worked. Neoliberals trying to make us wet our pants at the idea of government intervention will wail and gnash their teeth trying to avoid that point.
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