Obama spoke Thursday at George Mason University about his American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan -- a.k.a. the stimulus package. There’s an interesting section that would warm the heart of John Maynard Keynes. It goes like this:
“It is true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth, but at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe.”
Well, 28 years ago Ronald Reagan said government was the problem, not the solution. Dealing with a bad recession like this one, the Gipper lowered taxes and domestic spending. Obama on the other hand has offered an $800 billion package, with plenty of infrastructure spending that alleges to create three million jobs.
Nobody really believes infrastructure spending will end the recession or create permanent new jobs. However, it’s interesting just how much the Obama plan has changed since the election. The size has been roughly constant. But the mix of tax cuts and spending increases is now totally different.
Instead of $100 billion worth of tax credits, there are now $300 billion worth of tax cuts. This includes a big new piece for business, more cash-expensing for small-business investment, and a restoration of the five-year tax-loss carry-back, which will especially help banks and homebuilders. It might even result in tax refunds for businesses, and might also allow banks to rid themselves of toxic assets, since the losses will now be spread over many years.
So what we have now is an $800 billion stimulus package with $300 billion of so-called tax cuts which could infer less spending than before -- maybe only $500 billion worth.
Obama’s economic advisers are bragging to me about their new tax-cut package. They say they’re very pro-growth. And you know what? I acknowledge it. People like Larry Summers, Austan Goolsbee, Christy Romer, and Tim Geithner are no left-wing big-government whackos. They may not be hard-core supply-siders. But in terms of the economics profession, I would call them center-right.
And they absolutely understand the importance of private business and investment in the job-creating economic-growth process. And I think they’re views are the main reason for the reshaping of the Obama package between the campaign trail and the eve of inauguration.