Economy Sees Lift From Stimulus

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Economic recovery, Economy, Money

The rise in unemployment is slowing down and we’re pulling out of this recession sooner than expected.

Why?

The reason is clear to me: we stepped in, took action and did something instead of just allowing the markets determine our fate.

WSJ explains…

The U.S. economy is beginning to show signs of improvement, with many economists asserting the worst is past and data pointing to stronger-than-expected growth. On Tuesday, data showed manufacturing grew in August for the first time in more than a year. “There’s a method to the madness. We’re getting out of this,” said Brian Bethune, chief U.S. financial economist at IHS Global Insight.

Much of the stimulus spending is just beginning to trickle through the economy, with spending expected to peak sometime later this year or in early 2010. The government has funneled about $60 billion of the $288 billion in promised tax cuts to U.S. households, while about $84 billion of the $499 billion in spending has been paid. About $200 billion has been promised to certain projects, such as infrastructure and energy projects.

Economists say the money out the door — combined with the expectation of additional funds flowing soon — is fueling growth above where it would have been without any government action.

And yes, we can project whether doing nothing would have been better…

Many forecasters say stimulus spending is adding two to three percentage points to economic growth in the second and third quarters, when measured at an annual rate. The impact in the second quarter, calculated by analyzing how the extra funds flowing into the economy boost consumption, investment and spending, helped slow the rate of decline and will lay the groundwork for positive growth in the third quarter — something that seemed almost implausible just a few months ago. Some economists say the 1% contraction in the second quarter would have been far worse, possibly as much as 3.2%, if not for the stimulus.

For the third quarter, economists at Goldman Sachs & Co. predict the U.S. economy will grow by 3.3%. “Without that extra stimulus, we would be somewhere around zero,” said Jan Hatzius, chief U.S. economist for Goldman.

Yes, I know this is like fingernails across the chalkboard to several of you, but sometimes it’s entirely appropriate for the government to step in, prevent calamity and then leave. And now we see some positive steps that we’re moving forward again. Perhaps not a V-shaped recovery, but I definitely don’t think we’re going to see a “Lost Decade” as they did in Japan.

Hell, we’re actually making money from the TARP program and being repaid A LOT faster than we first thought. Also, there’s a chance we could make money from Freddie and Fannie. Obviously this wasn’t the intention when we stepped in, but a welcome surprise for taxpayers nonetheless.

More as it develops…


This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 and is filed under Economic recovery, Economy, Money. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

28 Responses to “Economy Sees Lift From Stimulus”

  1. kranky kritter Says:

    Your positivity would be downright comical if people weren’t hurting so badly. As it is, it’s the most tedious sort of blithe partisan cheerleading.

    Like most other folks struggling, I’m thoroughly tired of the plumping of the odd sign that things are getting better, or getting worse at a slower rate, and so on.

    As of yet, there really isn’t any kind of confluence of truly positive indicators, though we can take a tiny smidge of consolation in the possibility that things may finally be troughing. We’ll know a lot more when we can see the shape of the 2009 xmas retail season. Which I expect to be at best disappointing, and maybe even dreadful. If people aren’t opening their wallets this fall, we’ll probably see another wave of job losses this winter.

    There’s also plenty of reason to worry about what will happen to car sales after the clunker giveaway. Looking ahead, there’s is also reason to worry that the housing rebound will stall when the stimulus tax credit expires at the end of november.

    If we see tanking in those sectors, then there is bound to be a battle royal over whether or not the government should pass another budget with the kind of shocking overbudget deficit spending we saw in the last 2 budgets.

    I’m deeply worried about that. I’m concerned that Americans are so used to budget deficits that many have no real clue as to how much MORE overspending we have done in the last 2 budgets. For a long time, the government has been collecting 10 and spending 10.50 or 11. That’s been bad enough. But now we are collecting 3 and spending 4 or 5. That’s a level of deficits that is not even remotely sustainable.

    If we pass another 5 trillionish budget, it MUST be the last one with this kind of deficits. Or we’ll go bankrupt. No one will buy our debt.

  2. Vast Says:

    There are plenty of positive indicators out there, like both GM and Ford adding shifts to factories, which both announced in August. As with every recession that has come before it, main street is the last to recover, and yes we still have a long way to go. Fixing the worst recession to hit this country since the Great Depression isn’t something that happens over night or even in just 8 months. It will be years before we fully recover. Had the government not done anything and jumped into Hooverism, bankruptcy of the country would have been the least of our worries.

  3. michael reynolds Says:

    KK:

    Yes, you’re worried. I get that. You’re very worried that Obama won’t be able to fix the mess left behind by Mr. Bush. The mess I don’t recall that you found especially worrying until after it was dumped on the kitchen floor by the Republicans.

    I think your bigger political worry is that Justin’s right. Because if he’s right and Mr. Obama ends up rescuing us from the worst effects of Republicanism, gosh, then where will you be?

  4. kranky kritter Says:

    Where will I be? I’ll be happy Michael. If the economy rebounds nicely, I’ll be ab-so-effing-lutely delighted.

    The mess I don’t recall that you found especially worrying until after it was dumped on the kitchen floor by the Republicans.

    There is only conceivable reason why you don’t recall this. Your memory must be quite awful. I’ve been very concerned about the economy since before it tanked when the RE market collapsed, because I worried that a long period of too-low interest rates was fueling a series of bubbles. Easily available capital made us all sloppy.

    I’m not a republican. I didn’t vote for George Bush either time, and I voted for Obama last November.

    I really could care less about blame for this mess, but laying it simply at the feet of “Republicanism” is just dumb tedious partisanship. Blame congress. Blame Wall Street. Blame the fed. Blame all the people who took out loans they couldn’t afford. Blame all the people who don’t appreciate democracy well enough to pay attention and make congress perform for the people.

    I could go on, but again, blame is not important. What’s important now is that someone takes responsible action. I hope Obama is a big part of that. He is by far the President who most closely resembles what I personally had dreamed we might someday see in the oval office: wicked smart, very well-spoken, compassionate, motivated. I like him a LOT, IOW.

    And I realize he has been boxed in by current economic circumstances to a very substantial extent. Oh well. Doesn’t matter. If he doesn’t quickly begin to lead the way to a near future where we spend within our means, we’re screwed.

  5. kranky kritter Says:

    …bankruptcy of the country would have been the least of our worries.

    Is there anything besides complete mathematical and financial illiteracy that could lead someone to think this is a sane thing to say? Vast, I WEEP for your kids if you have any.

    This boggles my mind. It just astonishes me how few people get that if we just keep borrowing money and flooding Earth will more and more dollars, we could become like a 3rd world nation.

  6. michael reynolds Says:

    KK:

    I’m sorry for mischaracterizing your positions. No excuse except long, fractured day. And I’m out of decent booze.

    If we cut government spending right now and balanced the budget the economy would fall off a cliff. Regular people aren’t spending enough so do you really think the government spending less will help?

    So right now we need to keep borrowing and spending. Because the alternatives are 1) spend less and drive off a cliff or 2) drastically raise taxes to cover spending and drive off a cliff. Right now we’re doing what we need to be doing.

    The problem isn’t right now, it’s 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago when we were having good times and still exploding the debt. That’s why I blame Republicanism. Democrats spend money like drunken sailors but believe in raising taxes to cover the bar bill. Unfortunately Republicans spend just as much but refuse to pay the bill.

    The hard truth is that this isn’t the 18th century any more. We’re in the 21st century and our government — like the government of every other advanced nation — is expensive. We need to pay more for it. Instead we have this Republican fantasy of “small government” and low taxes and since they only ever deliver on the second half of that we have massive debt.

    We need to figure out what we really want the government to do. And then pay for it. Or decide what absolute limit we’re going to set on what we want to spend and then live within that.

    But as long as Republicans demagogue each and every suggestion that we raise taxes, we aren’t going to solve anything. We’re not going to take grandma’s social security or hospitalization and we can’t stop paying the interest on our debt and since that alone is more than we take in, we need to raise taxes.

  7. rob Says:

    [i]You’re very worried that Obama won’t be able to fix the mess left behind by Mr. Bush.[/]

    Who gives a **** about assigning blame? (well aside from politicians and partisan hacks of course)

    The problem is they don’t have enough money to spend like they’re spending. KK isn’t the only person who’s more concerned about the solution than who to blame. Even the huge stock sell off yesterday didn’t affect the price of gold. Why? Because gold is a reflection of confidence in the US’ management and right now there’s a lot of hoping, but not much confidence. We peaked in Clinton’s last year or so and it’s been a downhill slide ever since.

    If Obama wants to go off and save the financial institutions from their foolish greed instead of forcing them to write down bad debts, that’s his call, but the money HAS to come from somewhere. Close federal departments, cut the military, nix social security, end medicare, I don’t care, but ffs pick something and deal with the consequences.

    This endless punting fixes nothing and it’s not fooling folks like it used to.

  8. Nick Benjamin Says:

    This boggles my mind. It just astonishes me how few people get that if we just keep borrowing money and flooding Earth will more and more dollars, we could become like a 3rd world nation.

    That’s a bit of a stretch.

    We borrow in dollars, and we can literally print dollars. The disadvantage to that scheme is it’s inflationary, but many industrialized countries have survived terrible inflation without unemployment going to 40%, the High School system collapsing, etc.

    Heck the Japanese national debt is almost twice their GDP, but we’re still in the low 60s or 70s:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_public_debt

    I’m not saying that we should go crazy and borrow 100% of GDP in the next three months. But current projections are that out debt will top off at approximately the same level as our GDP:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Us_debt
    Belgium and Italy are doing fine with that level of debt. And they can’t pay off their debts simply by printing money, because the EU controls the Euro.

  9. Mike A. Says:

    well stated KK

  10. Vast Says:

    I can think of several things that would be the result of economic collapse that would be worse than the bankruptcy of the nation. Complete collapse of government and civil order among them.

  11. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    This all sounds a bit 2002-2003 ish to me. If we judge recovery based on employment numbers alone, or the Dow-Jones, without addressing the fundamental issues with the structure of our economy, don’t be suprised if we see another boom-bust scenario play out.

    Remember, Bush had a recession dumped on him by the Clinton administration and responded with government spending and artificially low interest rates to boost lending and consumption. Subsequently, we saw the fastest economic growth and the lowest unemployment rates in history. We all know how that turned out in the end.

    Funny I don’t recall Justin or Mike R. gushing about what a great Job the Bush administration did in stimulating our economy into recovery from 2002-2007.

  12. D Says:

    The stimulus was an unfortunate necessity this time around (I would find this much more difficult to say if an impending global disaster were not at hand), but this is not an economic turn-around. Consumer sales are still slumping and the lifts were only provided by the government stimulus and Cash for Clunkers program. But don’t just listen to me, take it from one of the guys who predicted this economic crisis years before it occurred: http://www.minyanville.com/articles/recession-housing-mortgage-deficit/index/a/24299.

  13. DK Says:

    Vast, do you think the bankruptcy of the nation wouldn’t be followed by government collapse and civil unrest? Since the government can always print money, it can never go “bankrupt” in the sense that you or I can go bankrupt, but such a bankruptcy would look to you or I as a devaluation of the currency that would destroy everyone’s life savings and likely lead to shortages due to our inability to buy foreign goods and energy.

    The bailouts have been the equivalent of cardiac shock paddles. The stimuli have been the equivalent of band aids and pain relief medicine. Both of these actions try to prevent death and make the patient feel better, but they don’t get to the root of the problem. The patient must still either recover on his own or die.

    The economy may well recover on its own. But we are not out of the woods- watch out when we have to start moving interest rates away from their historic lows. Watch out when deficit spending finally forces painful tax increases. Watch out when peak oil and/or climate change legislation drives up the cost of energy. And definitely watch out if we continue our deficit spending ways and suddenly find ourselves in a hyperinflationary scenario.

  14. kranky kritter Says:

    Right, DK. It’s questionable what “bankruptcy” even means in the context of our government, but surely it means that our liabilities dwarf our “assets,” whatever assets means to the government. I presume it to be synonymous with a dynamic where creditors won’t extent credit. Our dollar loses value because folks overseas don’t want them.

    If the US government were “bankrupt” in any sense like that, then the things Vast describes as things “worse” than bankruptcy would be likely to ensue. Serious inflation is among the things we’d see in a post-bankruptcy environment where the US was unable to get foreign credit.

    People on fixed incomes would get wiped out. Social security would be useless. Civil unrest is putting it mildly.

  15. gerryf Says:

    To be fair to Kranky, he has been consistantly, if not loudly, against poor economic policy for as long as I have been around.

    But, to be fair to Obama, he was handed a far worse crisis than Bush ever saw–and Jimmy’s fantasy about a fast economic growth and low unemployment is only justified because in 2004, the Bush administration CHANGED THE FREAKING RULES on how unemployment was counted.
    (look it up)

    I will concede that Clinton handed Bush off a floundering economy, but the Bush team’s answer was pure idiocy. Obscene government spending and hiding the cost of a war, low interest rates (not really Bush’s fault, to be fair), and tax increases for the rich were disasterous policies only a Bush fan could love.

    Clinton did one thing right–he began to try and reduce the federal budget, but most of his economic polices were pure Republican nonsense that only made things worse. Yes, Bush got handed that steaming pile of crap from Clinton, who got it from Bush, who got it Reagan.

    And, by all appearances, I am afraid the Obama has surround himself with more Wall Street cronies who will simple try and recreate bubbles and enrich the wealthy and powerful.

    If you want to fix things, you have to make things. Moving money around does not create wealth, it only redistributes it or creates the illusion.

  16. gerryf Says:

    yikes, tax decreases—I guess that was wishful thinking

  17. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    Gerry, I’m not defending the Bush administration. I’ll be first to admit that I was fooled by those statistics at that time. Unemployment was at a record low. GDP growth was at a record high. But it was a phony economy – a bubble built on borrowed money with nothing to back it up, and it popped.

    The point is, all of the indicators that Justin and the Democrats point to as a sign of a recovery now, were also touted as a sign of recovery from the Dot-Com bust.

    Obama hasn’t changed the way unemployment has been measured, GDP still includes consumer consumption (as it has long before Bush), Inflation doesn’t include food and fuel prices, ect…Obama promised change. We are getting more of the same. The same wreckless stimulus and monetary policy of the Bush years except 10 times worse. Bernake was appointed by Bush for crying out loud, and someone please tell me what is the difference between Henry Paulson and Tim Geithner besides the hair?

  18. Vast Says:

    The only way to move an economy is for people to spend money. When the free market stops spending money the only way to keep it going is for someone else to take up the slack until the market rights it self.

  19. rob Says:

    Or allow the economy to retract to true demand.

  20. kranky kritter Says:

    Wow. Perish the thought Rob. God forbid that we came out of this via some sort of genuine economic understanding of a sound relationship between the number of dollars and GDP. Right?

    God forbid we wrote off the phony gains and unsustainable growth rates of the past and accepted moving forward slowly and solidly on a sound understanding. That’s just not tasty enough for most folks.

    Clearly the only solution is to borrow and overspend as much as is necessary to reinflate the bubble economy. What could go wrong?

    Sorry for the sarcasm. It’s all I can muster in response to rectally-extracted wishful opinions on how to get out of the current economic state. Patriotically spending borrowed money is not on my list of things to do this xmas season.

  21. kranky kritter Says:

    Time for the update, Justin: unemployment to 26 year high on latest numbers. So much for the rebound.

  22. michael reynolds Says:

    KK:

    You’re just being silly now. No one said unemployment had stopped being a problem. But 200k jobs lost beats 700k jobs lost. So clearly things are better than they were. You’re arguing that a 100 degree temperature isn’t better than a 103 degree temperature because the patient is still sick.

    And if unemployment is your concern, how do you imagine things would be better if we had no stimulus?

    I think you’re just sort of ranting in free-association, not connecting things.

  23. kranky kritter Says:

    But 200k jobs lost beats 700k jobs lost. So clearly things are better than they were.

    Um, no. Actually they are clearly worse. Fewer folks have jobs. Not sure why you don’t get that. To be fair, I believe that what you mean to cheer is the fact that the pace of decline has slowed. I’ll wait until the decline has stopped and the number of folks employed actually starts, you know, growing in a meaningful way. In other words, substantial growth over the course of 3 to 6 months. That is what “getting better” looks like.

    Sorry, but I’m not that encouraged yet by a one or two month period where the rate at which things are getting worse is less than the previous rate. I continue to believe that the economy is in a very tenuous spot. No bets until spring for me.

    And if unemployment is your concern, how do you imagine things would be better if we had no stimulus?

    I don’t imagine this, which is why I didn’t say anything like this. Aspects of the stimulus made sense, like extending unemployment benefits, subsidizing cobra, giving tax credits to first time home buyers. A whole host of other things will prove to be silly wish-list pork, crap that congresscritters larded on while the larding was good. I’m comfortable thinking that the stimulus could have achieved just as much good as it did at half the cost.

    I think you’re just sort of ranting in free-association, not connecting things.

    I think it’s WAY easier for you to toss out accusations like that than it is for you to address my actual concerns about the state of the economy and the federal budget. Conspicuously, you’ve yet to come up with anything resembling a cioherent argument for the sustainabilty of deficit spending at current levels.

    And that’s a shame. I used to visit the Mighty Middle back in the day, so I know you can actually perform independent thought and deliver useful insight. Ever since you went in the tank for Obama, you’ve been a loveblind defender. You didn’t used to be such a reflexively partisan douche.

  24. michael reynolds Says:

    KK:

    Here’s what Justin wrote:

    The rise in unemployment is slowing down and we’re pulling out of this recession sooner than expected.

    To which you respond:

    Time for the update, Justin: unemployment to 26 year high on latest numbers. So much for the rebound.

    In other words you attempted to rebut Justin with facts which directly supported what Justin said. The “rise in unemployment” is clearly “slowing down.” Right? Fact?

    And I’m the one not thinking clearly?

    LIke I said: you’re on a free-associating rant. You don’t offer solutions, you offer dire warnings and imprecations. We’d all like to turn back time and undo the last 30 or 50 years of fiscal irresponsibility. We don’t have a time machine. We have what we have. And we’re doing what we can.

    In the real world this is how things tend to work: we muddle through with half-assed solutions, lurching from crisis to crisis. Right now we are playing the hand dealt, and trying to muddle through. And you crying woe is me is not really any more useful than the Obama support you accuse me of.

    You want to be useful? Why don’t you do what neither party wants to do: tell the truth in specific terms. What do you want to cut? What taxes if any do you want to raise?

    I’ll offer my quick version: 1) means-test social security. 2) Means-test medicare. 3) raise retirement age to 70. 4) Go to a single -payer health system. 5) Raise taxes on everyone making more than 100k a year, progressive so the highest earners pay up to 50%. 6) Bail on Iraq. 7) Bail on Afghanistan. 8) Open immigration to anyone with a clean record, an education and a 50k buy-in.

    Now, could I get any of that through Congress? Of course not. No more than Obama can pull some magic plan out of his ass.

    If you have a better plan, one you actually think could get past anti-tax Republicans and anti-cut Democrats, lay it on us.

  25. kranky kritter Says:

    Right, Michael. You and Justin haven’t been cheerleading for Obama or crowing about positive signs while ignoring negative ones. Sure. Justin also said

    we’re pulling out of this recession sooner than expected.

    As previously described, you can call a deceleration of the rate of decline a rise all you want, but you’re logically and physically and mathematically wrong to do so. Period.

    LIke I said: you’re on a free-associating rant. You don’t offer solutions, you offer dire warnings and imprecations. We’d all like to turn back time and undo the last 30 or 50 years of fiscal irresponsibility. We don’t have a time machine. We have what we have. And we’re doing what we can.

    Your writing chops are sound Michael. That’s a great job of framing me as a kook and yourself as the voice of reason. But all I’ve been doing is consistently warning that the government’s extremely high levels of deficit spending are both unsustainable and extremely risky to the future of all Americans. And you’ve gone to great pains to characterize this as kooky ranting while avoiding any attempt to refute my point.

    The rest of your post is illogical. You ask me to be useful by making a list of good ideas, and then you give your own list, apparently to one up me. Then you admit it’s politically unfeasible. Then you ask me for a “better plan” but don’t tell what it’s supposed to be better than.

    Speaking to the past, a better plan would have been a smaller stimulus bill without wasteful pet projects. A better plan would have been to get more directly involved in more bad loans while letting more bad banks fail.

    Going forward, here are a couple random and not comprehensive ideas some of which will suffer from the same flaws as your list, and many of which are tossed out just for fun., not seriously:

    •Americans stop paying more for drugs than the average that other western industrial nations pay

    •we transition away from employer based healthcare. People who lose their jobs and their families get temporary free healthcare by letting the government run a tab for them, and repayment may be partial based on future income. Everyone is required to pay for healthcare regularly on the expectation that everyone needs it sooner or later. People with kick-ass free employer-provided healthcare are taxed to even out current existing disparities.

    •the vast majority of government departments are required to cut their budgets by 5%

    • all credit cards are required to have your photo and a PIN number

    • marijuana is legalized and taxed heavily, so that the cost of a legal joint is comparable to the cost of a good bottle of wine

    • television content providers are required to provide reasonable cost-effective a la cart viewing alternatives

    •every business which sells food or drinks is required to sell 12 oz bottles of water for 50 cents, including movie theaters, convenience stores, and sports concessions

    •copyright laws are reformed so that a copyright last for 17 years, same as a patent

    • seed money is provided, by the government if necessary, to establish a non profit organization to safely produce all drugs whose patents are expired and sell these AT COST to all Americans

    •the government sells lottery tickets that you can buy to support your favorite government program. No ads allowed.

    •for every federal election, 1/4 of the incumbents are required to randomly swap districts with other congresscritters

    • we flip a coin on Roe v Wade.Heads its law forever, tails it’s overturned and goes back to the states. Meanwhile, we all begin work on a new amendment firmly establishing whatever it is that that we really want privacy to mean.

  26. michael reynolds Says:

    Right, Michael. You and Justin haven’t been cheerleading for Obama or crowing about positive signs while ignoring negative ones.

    Show me where I’ve cheerleaded or crowed. Of course I hope our president succeeds. I always hope our president succeeds, whether I voted for him or not.

    But all I’ve been doing is consistently warning that the government’s extremely high levels of deficit spending are both unsustainable and extremely risky to the future of all Americans. And you’ve gone to great pains to characterize this as kooky ranting while avoiding any attempt to refute my point.

    On the contrary, I accept your point. Of course it’s awful and unsustainable. Yes, we’ve made quite a mess for ourselves. But Obama didn’t make the mess. He’s been president for less than 8 months. The recession started in 2007. The housing bubble started long before that when Obama was still in the Illinois legislature.

    The pet projects in the stimulus bill are irrelevant. They’re like John McCain’s eternal list of pork projects. What’s the point? That government is messy and imperfect? Granted. So what? The pork isn’t the point, Social Security, Medicare, Defense, off-budget wars and debt service are the point. Everything else in the budget is chickenfeed.

    We have an opposition party that will oppose everything, apparently including a presidential exhortation to students to stay in school. That same opposition party handed off a recession, a bank meltdown and two losing wars.

    So setting aside your fanciful list, what do you propose we actually do to create a more rational budget?

  27. michael reynolds Says:

    Once again: long response eaten by Justin’s spam filter.

    JUSTIN: you’re wearing me out, brother. I have more trouble with this site than any other.

  28. kranky kritter Says:

    Nick you said

    But current projections are that out debt will top off at approximately the same level as our GDP.

    These projections are useful how? And why? The last two budgets have represented extreme overspending(spend 4 or 5 for every 3 collected), and at this point in time we have NO idea when or whether these levels of overspending will be curtailed. Yet we should be cheered because someone made a guess using a model? How, for example, will these projections change if the next budget overspends at the same rate as the last 2? Or If inflation diminished the purchasing power of the dollar by 10 or 20 or 30 percent, or more? Or if inflation also messed up our GDP? Or if we measured it in a sounder currency than the dollar?

    “3rd world nation’ was perhaps hyperbole, but it makes the point that our economic status in the world could very quickly diminish by a substantial amount. Further, we really could become just like many 3rd world nations in the sense of being required to meet onerous and invasive conditions in order to borrow capital from nations with sounder currencies.

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