Walter E. Williams

Here is what my George Mason University colleague Professor Richard Wagner wrote, which was published by Office of the House Republican Leader: "Any so-called stimulus program is a ruse. The government can increase its spending only by reducing private spending equivalently. Whether government finances its added spending by increasing taxes, by borrowing, or by inflating the currency, the added spending will be offset by reduced private spending. Furthermore, private spending is generally more efficient than the government spending that would replace it because people act more carefully when they spend their own money than when they spend other people's money." A short translation of Wagner's comment is: There is no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy. Let's examine the ruse.

Suppose the value of all that we will produce in 2009, our gross domestic product (GDP), totals $14 trillion. There cannot be any disagreement that if Congress spends $4 trillion, of necessity there is only $10 trillion left over for us to spend privately. In other words, if Congress is going to spend $4 trillion, it must find a way to get us to spend $4 trillion less. The most open and aboveboard method to force us to spend less privately is to tax us to the tune of $4 trillion.

You might say, "Congress doesn't have to tax us $4 trillion. They could tax us $3 trillion and run a $1 trillion budget deficit." You have that wrong. There is no way for Congress to spend $4 trillion out of our 2009 $14 trillion GDP by getting us to spend only $3 trillion less privately. It has to be $4 trillion less. Another method to force us to spend less privately is to print money and inflate the currency. Rising prices reduce our ability to spend privately since each dollar we hold will not buy as much. Another way is for Congress to borrow, thereby reducing our ability to spend privately. By the way, all of this means that in any real economic sense the federal budget is always balanced. That is, if Congress spends $4 trillion we must privately spend $4 trillion less whether it is accomplished through taxation, inflation or borrowing.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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