Commentary

Brooks on sprawling stimulus package

David Brooks has an excellent column in the New York Times examining the sprawling stimulus package passed by the House of Representatives. What makes this column worth reading in its entirety is the analytical way he looks at the package, using the principles set forth by none other than top Obama economic advisor Lawrence Summers as a foundation for his critique.

Throughout 2008, Larry Summers, the Harvard economist, built the case for a big but surgical stimulus package. Summers warned that a “poorly provided fiscal stimulus can have worse side effects than the disease that is to be cured.” So his proposal had three clear guidelines. First, the stimulus should be timely. The money should go out “almost immediately.” Second, it should be targeted. It should help low- and middle-income people. Third, it should be temporary. Stimulus measures should not raise the deficits “beyond a short horizon of a year or at most two.”

But, lo and behold, that’s not what was produced.

In a fateful decision, Democratic leaders merged the temporary stimulus measure with their permanent domestic agenda ââ?¬â?? including big increases for Pell Grants, alternative energy subsidies and health and entitlement spending. The resulting package is part temporary and part permanent, part timely and part untimely, part targeted and part untargeted.

The entire column is worth quoting, but I’m sure we would run into copyright problems. So, follow the link!

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.