But there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. Democrats should be for it because it is straight-up economic stimulus, writ large. And Republicans should be for it because it is the stimulus option that’s most in line with conservative values. To be sure, a whole lot of right-wing conservatives will object to the very notion—government checks give them the willies. And for conservatives with the strongest tendencies toward gold buggery, who are already freaked out that the Fed’s quantitative easing is debasing the currency and setting us up for hyperinflation, the idea will never be in favor. But what conservatives really objected to about the Obama stimulus and all subsequent Democratic proposals for fiscal pump priming was not so much the fiscal consequences, despite what they said—after all, they favored the Iraq War and the Bush tax cuts, which drove up the debt, and voted for Paul Ryan’s budget, which would have done the same. What really infuriates them about Democratic stimulus measures is that it is spending by government, meant to achieve government priorities, and delivered through government channels in ways that enhance the reach and influence of the government. Federal Grant Writing Workshops
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Take the early 2000s, for example. During the recession caused by the collapse of the dot-com bubble, the Fed lowered rates almost to zero, yet the stimulative effect was strikingly weak. Aside from today’s economy, the 2000s expansion was by far the weakest in postwar history, despite being driven by a housing bubble of world-historical proportions and enormous deficit spending. Then came the financial crisis in late 2007 and early 2008. When the economy fell into recession, the Fed started to lower rates sharply and reached near zero by late 2008. (For complicated reasons, the Fed refuses to go all the way to zero.) This action, coupled with the sizable fiscal stimulus of 2009, was enough to stave off a full-blown depression, but it was not enough to prevent mass unemployment, which spiked to over 10 percent and, more importantly, has come down at an agonizing pace. The prime working-age employment rate collapsed during the crisis, and has barely budged since (see Graph 4).
In order to do that, economists have relied for the past seventy years or so on two basic tools: fiscal policy and monetary policy. The first concerns how the government taxes and spends; the second concerns the action of the central bank (in America, that’s the Federal Reserve), which controls the supply of money. While both tools are complex, the main thing to understand is that they both have an accelerator and a brake pedal. If the economy is overheating, with spending overtaking new production of goods and services, resulting in a bidding spiral and increasing inflation, we can hit the brakes. If the economy is moving too slowly, with spending not keeping pace with the production of goods and services, we can hit the gas. Federal Grant Lookup
What’s more, there is no reason to think that our aggregate demand problem will be cured without some kind of aggressive change. The economist Brad DeLong has calculated that reasonable estimates of the current and future damage to our economy from the present crisis are greater than those from the Great Depression. “Unless something—and it will need to be something major—returns the U.S. to its pre-2008 growth trajectory, future economic historians will not regard the Great Depression as the worst business-cycle disaster of the industrial age,” he wrote in the journal Project Syndicate. “It is we who are living in their worst case.” Already our current weak economic expansion is near the length of the postwar average, and a new recession may strike at any time, which would erase the pitiful gains of the past five years. (God only knows what is cooking in the dungeons of Wall Street.) If we change nothing, we could be stuck in our current situation for decades. Japan has been mired in a similar trap for almost thirty years. Free Money In Minutes