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Debate: 2009 US economic stimulus

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Pro

  • Large stimulus is appropriate for large economic crisis Scot Lehigh. "A large stimulus bill for large problems". The Boston Globe. February 6, 2009 - "President Obama's call for a large stimulus plan is under assault by arguments as unpersuasive as they are uninformed. Is the stimulus plan large? Yes, and with good reason. Our economic problems are as well. With consumers poorer from $6 trillion in vanished housing wealth and $7 trillion in vaporized stock, we're set to suffer annual losses in overall economic activity of a trillion dollars this year and a trillion or more next year. It's not just consumer spending that has collapsed. Other traditional generators of economic growth - business investment, housing construction, and exports - are all anemic. You can trace the effects of the sharp economic contraction in frequent stories about massive layoffs. That leaves government spending as the nation's best hope for softening a major downturn. To address a projected loss of more than $2 trillion in economic activity, Congress is debating an overall stimulus package of $819 billion to $900 billion. Although those figures sound large, on a dollar-for-dollar basis they would plug less than half the growing hole in the economy. So the stimulus size is hardly excessive - and conservatives' calls for cutting it back make little sense."[1]
  • Stimulus risks being too small not too large. Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect. - Stimulus "needs to be adequate to do the job. Eight hundred and twenty billion is about 2.5% of GDP. But the economy is sinking at the rate of five to six percent. So they may find out they have to come back and ask for more."
  • Vast majority of stimulus bill is good stimulus. Jim Horney, director of federal fiscal policy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - "The vast majority of what is in these two bills is pretty good stimulus."[2]
Steven Pearlstein. "Wanted: Personal Economic Trainers. Apply at Capitol." Washington Post. February 6, 2009 - "Spending is stimulus, no matter what it's for and who does it. The best spending is that which creates jobs and economic activity now, has big payoffs later and disappears from future budgets."
  • Funding new government jobs will stimulate the economy. Steven Pearlstein. "Wanted: Personal Economic Trainers. Apply at Capitol." Washington Post. February 6, 2009 - "And then there is Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), complaining in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal that of the 3 million jobs that the stimulus package might create or save, one in five will be government jobs, as if there is something inherently inferior or unsatisfactory about that. (Note to Coburn's political director: One in five workers in Oklahoma is employed by government.)"
  • US stimulus rightly goes toward important social projects. Steven Pearlstein. "Wanted: Personal Economic Trainers. Apply at Capitol." Washington Post. February 6, 2009 - "what's striking is that supposedly intelligent people are horrified at the thought that, during a deep recession, government might try to help the economy by buying up-to-date equipment for the people who protect us from epidemics and infectious diseases, by hiring people to repair environmental damage on federal lands and by contracting with private companies to make federal buildings more energy-efficient."
  • Longer-term spending is not "waste"; helps sustain stimulus. Steven Pearlstein. "Wanted: Personal Economic Trainers. Apply at Capitol." Washington Post. February 6, 2009 - "Let’s review some of the more silly arguments about the stimulus bill, starting with the notion that 'only' 75 percent of the money can be spent in the next two years, and the rest is therefore 'wasted.' As any economist will tell you, the economy tends to be forward-looking and emotional. So if businesses and households can see immediate benefits from a program while knowing that a bit more stimulus is on the way, they are likely to feel more confident that the recovery will be sustained. That confidence, in turn, will make them more likely to take the risk of buying big-ticket items now and investing in stocks or future ventures."


Con

  • Stimulus bill contains too much non-stimulus spending.
  • US government is powerless to affect economy with stimulus. Eliot Spitzer. "Robots, Not Roads". Slate. Jan. 5, 2009 - "the capacity of even the U.S. government to affect the overall global economy is limited. Suppose the package is $800 billion over two years: $400 billion is less than 1 percent of the global economy and a mere 3 percent of the U.S. economy. In relative terms, $400 billion isn't all that much more than the $152 billion spent on the 2008 stimulus, which had nary an impact on the economy."
  • Spending and borrowing got US into crisis, won't get it out. Andrew Schiff, an investment consultant at Euro Pacific Capital said to Politico: "All this stimulus money is geared toward getting consumers spending and borrowing again. But spending and borrowing were the problem in the first place."[4]
  • Borrowing money for stimulus will not help economy. David Freddoso. "The Case for No Stimulus". National Review. February 3, 2009 - "Every penny of such a package must be borrowed, because the government is already running a $1.2 trillion deficit this year and faces a $703 billion deficit for next year, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The question, then, is whether the government can help the economy by spending money if it can only do so by first sucking that money out of the economy."
  • Economic stimulus plan does not create any new demand. Brian Riedl, Heritage Foundation. "The Case for No Stimulus". National Review. February 3, 2009 - "That is a great question. The grand Keynesian myth is that you can spend money and thereby increase demand. And it’s a myth because Congress does not have a vault of money to distribute in the economy. Every dollar Congress injects into the economy must first be taxed or borrowed out of the economy. You’re not creating new demand, you’re just transferring it from one group of people to another. If Washington borrows the money from domestic lenders, then investment spending falls, dollar for dollar. If they borrow the money from foreigners, say from China, then net exports drop dollar for dollar, because the balance of payments must adjust. Therefore, again, there is no net increase in aggregate demand. It just means that one group of people has $800 billion less to spend, and the government has $800 billion more to spend."
  • US stimulus spends too much on roads and bridges. Eliot Spitzer. "Robots, Not Roads". Slate. Jan. 5, 2009 - "The 'off the shelf' infrastructure projects that can be funded immediately and provide immediate demand-side stimulus are almost by definition not the transformative investments we really need. Paving roads, repairing bridges that need refurbishing, and accelerating existing projects are all good and necessary, but not transformative. These projects by and large are building or patching the same economy with the same flaws that got us where we are. Our concern should be that as we look for the next great infrastructure project to transform our economy, we might rebuild the Erie Canal and find ourselves a century behind technologically."


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