Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stimulus Spending Skeptics

An AP story reports:
Obama advisers, including Christina Romer and Lawrence Summers, have been contacting economists from across the political spectrum in search of advice as they assemble a spending plan that would meet Obama's goal of preserving or creating 2.5 million jobs over two years....Only one outside economist contacted by Obama aides, Harvard's Greg Mankiw, who served on President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, voiced skepticism about the need for an economic stimulus, transition officials said.
Skepticism, rather than unequivocal opposition, is the right word. When contacted, I said the same things I have been saying on this blog: that monetary policy is not out of ammunition, and that tax cuts are potentially more potent than spending increases. I could have added that a spending-based stimulus to address the current short-term crisis might lead to a long-term increase in the size of government, but I doubted that concern would sway Team Obama. In general, I think economists need a large dose of humility when evaluating alternative proposals to deal with the current downturn, as there is still a lot we do not understand.

I am sure I am not the only person in the economics profession skeptical of spending increases to stimulate the economy. See, for example, GMU economist Tyler Cowen. If the new administration wanted to find more skeptics of stimulus spending among professional economists, I could have come up with some possible candidates for them, but the Obama economists probably already know who those likely skeptics would be.

By the way, House Republican leader John Boehner is compiling "a list of credentialed American economists who would like to add their voices to the list of stimulus spending skeptics." Click here to learn more.