domingo, 21 de dezembro de 2008

Estimulo fiscal: mais comentários

Apenas mais algumas leituras, para a época natalícia.
Primeiro, Tyler Cowen, sobre o já aqui referido capítulo sobre a crise japonesa, deixa alguns comentários:
A few observations:

1. This is a piece of evidence in favor of fiscal stimulus and so we should take it seriously.

2. It is, quite literally, only a single data point.

3. In November 1994 there was a big cut in personal income taxes and that may be responsible for some of the increase in economic growth in 1995-6. (There was also reconstruction from the 1995 Kobe earthquake, as one reader notes in the comments.)

4. Japan was much weaker automatic stabilizers than does the United States. Some of the fiscal policy boost was to strengthen those economic stabilizers. The case for doing that is indeed much stronger than the case for initiating new government expenditures in the form of specific projects.

5. The history is fully consistent with an alternative interpretation, as I have discussed in my post on the fetishization of measured gdp. Namely, the Japanese spent more money putting unemployed resources to work on construction projects. Measured gdp went up, but the Japanese didn't get much of value for their money. (Japanese construction projects from this era are notoriously ugly, wasteful, and unpopular.) The spending also didn't set off any kind of lasting recovery. It was the proverbial ditch digging without much in the way of later-order benefits or multipliers. In these circumstances a boost in measured, temporary GDP is very different from an economic recovery.

6. There is a deeper question of why governments so often back away from aggressive fiscal stimulus, if that policy indeed will bring so much recovery and thus bring in so many votes and so much revenue. Posen in his chaper suggests that ideology is at fault but I am not convinced. After all Japan is not ruled by Grover Norquist. The alternative null hypothesis is simply that governments see the fiscal stimulus is not working.

Anyway, that is the evidence we are being asked to spend $600-700 billion on -- or $2 trillion for some --so I thought you should see it.

Depois, uma carta de um leitor do blog de Greg Mankiw:
I work for the DoD and when the Department of Homeland Security was established,we helped them with many things, not the least of which was contracting. To make a long story short, you cannot juice up a government agency's budget by tens of billions (or in the case of the stimulus package, hundreds of billions) and expect them to be able to process the paperwork to contract it out, much less oversee the projects or even choose them with any kind of hope for success. It's like trying to feed a Pomeranian a 25 lb turkey. It's madness.

It was years before DHS got the situation under control and between the start and when they finally assembled a sufficiently capable team of lawyers, contracting officials, technical experts and resource managers, most of the money was totally wasted. Now take the DHS situation and multiply it by 20 and you've got the Obama stimulus package. Even if they hand the money to existing governmental agencies, the situation will be the same. Those existing agencies are working full time administering the
budgets they have. They can't just add a zero at the end of each contract and be done with it.

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