It may be that the last people in America who believe that the $862 billion economic stimulus of February 2009 created millions of net new jobs are Vice President Joe Biden and the staff economists in the White House. Yesterday, President Obama's chief economist announced that the plan had "created or saved" between 2.5 million and 3.6 million jobs and raised GDP by 2.7% to 3.2% through June 30. Don't you feel better already?…
This is called a counterfactual: a what would have happened scenario that can't be refuted. What we do know is what White House economists at the time said would happen if the stimulus didn't pass. They said the unemployment rate would peak at 9% without the stimulus (there's your counterfactual) and that with the stimulus the rate would stay at 8% or below. (See the nearby chart.) In other words, today there are 700,000 fewer jobs than Ms. Romer predicted we would have if we had done nothing at all. If this is a job creation success, what does failure look like?
All of these White House jobs estimates are based on the increasingly discredited Keynesian spending "multiplier," which according to White House economist Larry Summers means that every $1 of government spending will yield roughly $1.50 in higher GDP. Ms. Romer thus plugs her spending data into the Keynesian computer models and, presto, out come 2.5 million to 3.6 million jobs, even if the real economy has lost jobs. To adapt Groucho Marx: Who are you going to believe, the White House computer models, or your own eyes?
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