Debate Club

Politics, Not Stimulus, To Blame for Slow Growth

By Tamara Draut SHARE

The answer to the question of whether stimulus spending works is the same answer I'd give my toddler if she asked for an extra helping of spinach: absolutely, yes. In fact, like asking for more spinach, there's really no credible reason for a "no" answer. Spinach is good for the body; stimulus is good for the economy.

The most recent case of stimulus spending, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, did work. Here's what we know about the impact of the stimulus: according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office, the Recovery Act lowered the unemployment rate by between ½ a percentage point to 1.6 percentage points, and increased employment by 1 to nearly 3 million jobs. Private estimates from Global Advisors, Macreconomic Advisors, and Moody's all estimate that by the end of the first quarter in 2011, just over 2.4 million jobs were added due to the ARRA. Similarly, even more private analysts, including from Goldman Sachs, estimate that the ARRA boosted GDP by 1.7 to 2.7 percentage points above what it would have been without the stimulus spending.

[Rick Newman: How Politicians Are Wrecking the World Economy]

So why all this talk about the stimulus not working? The stimulus was disappointing because it only filled less than half of the giant hole in the economy. At the time, the economic gap in the economy was around $2 trillion—the stimulus package was roughly $825 billion. Given the pace of the 24-hours news cycle and the constant bickering in Congress, one can be forgiven for forgetting that the big debate about the stimulus among economists at the time was not about whether it would work—it was about it not being big enough to fill the crater left by the financial crash.

The stimulus law performed well given its size and scope. It's a moral tragedy that so many in our nation remain jobless and so many remain unable to refinance their underwater mortgages. But our stubborn jobs crisis isn't a symptom of any inherent deficiency in stimulus spending—it's political. We could have done more, and we still need to do more to get Americans to work and increase consumer demand so that businesses start hiring again. Common sense (and mounds of evidence) tells us "yes" is the obvious answer. Unfortunately, both common sense and empirical wisdom seem irrelevant to many in the halls of Congress.

Tamara Draut

About Tamara Draut Author of "Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead"

economic stimulus

Other Arguments

237 Pts
Government Spending Shrinks the Private Sector

No – Government Spending Shrinks the Private Sector

Veronique de Rugy Senior Research Fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University

90 Pts
Stimulus Can Work, But Not During a Debt Crisis

No – Stimulus Can Work, But Not During a Debt Crisis

Chris Papagianis Former Special Assistant for Domestic Policy to President George W. Bush

-88 Pts
Stimulus Works, But Only When It Is Big Enough

Yes – Stimulus Works, But Only When It Is Big Enough

Dean Baker Economist at Center for Economic and Policy Reasearch

-100 Pts
Government Spending is Just What Our Economy Needs

Yes – Government Spending is Just What Our Economy Needs

Heather Boushey Economist at Center for American Progress

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