Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Should we cut gov't spending now?

A NY Times editorial:
Americans should be anxious, for reasons including the huge deficit. But the cold economic truth is this: At a time of high unemployment and fragile growth, the last thing the government should do is to slash spending. That will only drive the economy into deeper trouble.

None of this means that the politicians — from either party — are off the hook. They will soon need to make hard decisions about how to reduce the deficit. But more posturing and sniping is not going to make the economy better or solve the deficit problem. President Obama has called on the Republicans to join a bipartisan commission to help make those tough decisions, but they have been resistant to the proposal. 
I have to question that. How does gov't spending help the economy? How does slashing gov't spending?

Here's the justification:
Here is an unpopular but undeniable fact of life: When private sector demand is weak, the federal government must serve as the spender of last resort. Otherwise, collapsing demand sets in motion a negative, self-reinforcing spiral in which lack of demand — for goods, services and new employees — leads to ever deepening economic weakness.

That is why when the banks and the economy began to crumble in 2008, President Bush responded with a $700 billion bank bailout and a $168 billion stimulus package. When Mr. Obama took office, the banks were still shaky and the economy was still plunging— as measured by real-life indicators like jobs, consumer spending, credit availability, home equity, retirement savings and business confidence. The new administration made the sound decision to continue the bailout and pushed a $787 billion stimulus through Congress, with very little Republican help.

The stimulus package slowed job losses and helped spur activity — in the third quarter of 2009, the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent, and the initial fourth-quarter reading was 5.7 percent, a rebound few thought possible a year ago.

Still, without a jobs revival to boost consumer spending and tax revenues — and with the states facing immense budget shortfalls — the economy is unlikely to do anything other than limp along, at best, once the effects of the stimulus fade this year.
I think this editorial is worth a good read, if you're interested.

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