Nobel Prize Winning Economist Says Obama Policies Delaying Economic Recovery

by Hans Bader on January 8, 2010

In the Wall Street Journal, Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker and others explain how President Obama’s policies are delaying and retarding the inevitable economic recovery, keeping unemployment high even though the recession Obama inherited was similar to others in the past that gave way to rapid recoveries:

In terms of U.S. output contractions, the so-called Great Recession was not much more severe than the recessions in 1973-75 and 1981-82. Yet recovery from the latest recession has started out much more slowly. For example, real GDP expanded by 7.7% in 1983 after unemployment peaked at 10.8% in December 1982, whereas GDP grew at an unimpressive annual rate of 2.2% in the third quarter of 2009. Although the fourth quarter is likely to show better numbers–probably much better–there are no signs of an explosive take off from the recession. …

In terms of discouraging a rapid recovery, other government proposals created greater uncertainty and risk for businesses and investors. These include plans to increase greatly marginal tax rates for higher incomes. In addition, discussions at the Copenhagen conference and by the president to impose high taxes on carbon dioxide emissions must surely discourage investments in refineries, power plants, factories and other businesses that are big emitters of greenhouse gases.

Congressional ‘reforms’ of the American health delivery system have gone through dozens of versions. The separate bills passed by the House and Senate worry small businesses, in particular. They fear their labor costs will increase because of mandates to spend much more on health insurance for their employees. The resulting reluctance of small businesses to invest, expand and hire harms households as well, because it slows the creation of new jobs and the growth of labor incomes. …

Even though some of the proposed antibusiness policies might never be implemented, they generate considerable uncertainty for businesses and households. Faced with a highly uncertain policy environment, the prudent course is to set aside or delay costly commitments that are hard to reverse. The result is reluctance by banks to increase lending–despite their huge excess reserves–reluctance by businesses to undertake new capital expenditures or expand work forces, and decisions by households to postpone major purchases.

Several pieces of evidence point to extreme caution by businesses and households. A regular survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) shows that recent capital expenditures and near-term plans for new capital investments remain stuck at 35-year lows. The same survey reveals that only 7% of small businesses see the next few months as a good time to expand. Only 8% of small businesses report job openings, as compared to 14%-24% in 2008, depending on month, and 19%-26% in 2007.

Obama’s $800 billion stimulus package, which failed to cut unemployment, is now pressuring states to raise taxes, thanks to costly requirements it imposed on states at the behest of powerful public-employee unions.

Obama claimed the stimulus package was needed to prevent the economy from suffering from “irreversible decline,” but the Congressional Budget Office admitted that the stimulus package actually would shrink the economy “in the long run.”  Unemployment has skyrocketed past European levels, as big-spending countries have fared worse than thrifty ones.  The Obama Administration claims credit for creating imaginary jobs in non-existent Congressional districts.

As the Examiner notes, “If his stimulus program was approved, Obama promised, unemployment would not go above 8 percent this year. The reality is that it passed 10.3 percent in October. So now the stimulus books are being cooked to mollify an anxious public worried that real-world jobs continue to disappear and angry that Obama has thrown almost $1 trillion down the stimulus rathole.”

The stimulus package actually destroyed thousands of real world jobs by triggering trade wars with Canada and Mexico that killed jobs in America’s export sector (the stimulus package barred a measley 97 Mexican truckers from U.S. roads, a minor NAFTA violation that led to massive Mexican retaliation against U.S. exports of 40 farm products and kitchen goods worth $2.4 billion).  It also is wiping out jobs by inflicting costly mandates on state governments (such as repealing welfare reform, and imposing costly “prevailing wage” regulations and expensive racial set-asides).

The stimulus package has since spawned countless examples of government waste and corruption.  Recently, Obama fired an inspector general, Gerald Walpin, who uncovered millions of dollars of waste and fraud in the AmeriCorps program, including by a prominent Obama supporter, endangering the Obama supporter’s ability to administer federal stimulus spending in Sacramento.  Obama’s alleged justification for firing the inspector general turned out to be false.

Billy Bob January 20, 2010 at 8:19 am

no not true

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