When the economy enters a recession, you lower interest rates. When monetary policy’s gone as low as it can, you try fiscal expansion. That means you need a deficit that’s large relative to the size of your economy. The US economy is about $13 trillion a year. Which is a very big number. Which means that to be a sizeable fraction of that number, you need another big number. Enter the American Issues Project to try to slam the stimulus as big:
After watching liberal allies of President Barack Obama flood the airwaves in support of the stimulus bill, a conservative third-party group is countering with a provocative new commercial using Jesus Christ to emphasize the scale of the $787 billion package.
The American Issues Project, which briefly aired a TV spot in last year’s presidential race, will go up on Friday with a TV spot that marks the dollars spent with the passage of time.
“Suppose you spent $1 million every single day starting from the day Jesus was born — and kept spending through today,” says the announcer as an image of the three wise men flashes on the screen. “A million dollars a day for more than 2,000 years. You would still have spent less money than Congress just did.”
Trying to check the math, 2,000 years times 365 days in a year = 730,000 days times $1 million a day equals $730,000,000,000. That is, indeed, a smaller number than the $787 billion size of the stimulus plan. Of course the actual spending in the package is worth hundreds of billions of dollars less than that since about a third of the total package is tax cuts. It’s been strange to see the GOP rail against the need for fiscal stimulus amidst an economic emergency, but their newfound habit of deciding that tax cuts are the same as new spending is genuinely weird. But be that as it may, Steve Benen observes that costing a lot is the purpose of the stimulus so it’s not clear what kind of sense this makes.
Invading Iraq was supposed to improve American national security. So it makes sense to put the alleged gains of the war alongside the $1 trillion price tag and ask whether hawks really think it was worth all that money. But the stimulus isn’t like that. It’s not intended to be a cost-effective way of juicing the economy. It’s intended to juice the economy by costing a lot of money.