Econquotes: By Shlaes, Becker, Barro, and Others

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Jun 04, 2009 12:01 AM
Econquotes: By Shlaes, Becker, Barro, and Others

Further quotations on the economy....

Amity Shlaes, senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations, in her new book, "The Forgotten Man: a New History of the Great Depression": "From 1929 to 1940, from Hoover to Roosevelt, government intervention helped to make the Depression Great....It was a period of a power struggle between two sectors of the economy, both containing a mix of evil and virtue. The public sector and the private sector competed relentlessly for advantage. At the beginning, in the 1920s, the private sector ruled. By the end, when World War II began, it was the public sector that was dominant. The contrast was a brutal one, fought across the land."

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Harvard economist Robert Barro, interviewed in the Atlantic, on the fundamental mistake (minimal tax cuts) in the Obama stimulus package - noting that significant tax cutting has an enviable history: "It worked to expand the GDP, for example, in '63 and '64 with the Kennedy/Johnson cuts. And then (with) Reagan twice in '81 and '83 and then in '86. And then the Bush 2003 tax cutting program. Those all worked in the sense of promoting economic growth in a short time-frame."

Gary Becker, winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences: "The more you have dependence on the government, the stronger the interest group of people who want to maintain it. That's one reason why it is so hard to get any major reform in reducing government spending in Scandinavia, and it is increasingly so in the United States. The government is spending - at the federal, state, and local levels - a third of Gross Domestic Product, and that share will go up now. The higher it is, the more people who are directly or indirectly dependent on the government. The basic theory of interest-group politics says that they will have more influence and their influence will be to try to maintain this, and it will be hard to go back."

Forbes editor-in-chief Steve Forbes, discussing the annual report to the Treasury by the IRS' Taxpayer Advocate Service: "Americans spend 7.6 billion hours a year complying with tax-filing requirements, the equivalent of 3.8 million full-time jobs. The Tax Code gets ever more complicated, expanding by about 1,000 words a day - with 500 changes last year alone."

China's Premier Wen Jiabao, blaming the U.S. and other Western economies for the global depression: "(It is) attributable to the inappropriate macroeconomic policies of some economies and their unsustainable model of development characterized by prolonged low savings and high consumption, excessive expansion of financial institutions in blind pursuit of profit, (and other excesses.)"

Wall Street Journal reporters Aaron Lucchetti and Matthew Karnitschnig: "From 2002 to 2008, the five biggest Wall Street securities firms paid an estimated $190 billion in bonuses. Those companies churned out $76 billion in combined profits during the same period. Last year, the companies had a combined net loss of $25.3 billion, yet paid bonuses of roughly $26 billion."

John Tamny, editor of RealClearMarkets: "Going forward, readers should expect lots of strident commentary about how Wall Street has failed Main Street. At the least, they should know that an unstable dollar, not the actions of 'greedy' bankers, explains the various investment mistakes that regularly harm companies and the good name of capitalism itself."

Chicago Tribune chairman Sam Zell, on why he didn't explore bankruptcy for his company well before his December filing: "There's this guy who was just elected president of the United States, and he wrote a book called 'The Audacity of Hope.'"

William and Mary's president Taylor Reveley, on how his college 'is doing as the world moves through chaotic and unpredictable economic times': "No other college or university in America has had to overcome more adversity than William and Mary, including being caught in the paths of two wars. Along the way, the college has developed great staying power. We will be fine."

Peter Ferrara, who served in the Reagan White House's Office of Policy Development - now director of entitlement and budget policy at the Institute for Policy Innovation: "(Ronald Reagan's economic policies worked) because they turned around in just two years an economy far worse than today's. We were suffering from multi-year double-digit inflation, double-digit unemployment, double-digit interest rates, declining incomes, and rising poverty. In fact, what we suffer with today is not the worst economy since the Great Depression but the worst economy since Jimmy Carter - the last time liberals were dominant politically and intellectually....(Today's) stimulus plan is the greatest increase in government spending in the history of the planet. Meanwhile, the Fed is furiously reinflating, sowing more havoc down the line."

Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Weisman: "White House budget director Peter Orszag (has) revised the fiscal 2009 deficit upward by $89 billion, to $1.84 trillion, 12.9 percent of the economy. That is a level not seen since 1945. Next year's deficit forecast was raised $87 billion, to $1.26 trillion."