ARRA And Long-Term Growth

Via Tyler Cowen, an interesting dialogue between Senator Jeff Sessions and CBO Director Doug Elmendorf in which Sessions gets Elmendorf to agree that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act made the projected 2019 GDP lower than it would have been in a no-ARRA scenario:

I’m not certain I agree with that forecast, but I think the country would have been about a million times better off if these were the terms in which ARRA had been debated. The CBO view is that ARRA boosted growth and employment in the short-term, but created a long-term drag on growth with no employment implications. Democrats thought that was a good trade-off, but Republicans thought it wasn’t. That would have been a perfectly sensible disagreement to have, and wouldn’t have required anyone to adopt exotic big picture economic theories. I could have written blog posts about how in a wealthy society like the United States, unemployment is more hedonically significant than GDP levels. Then with ARRA passed, everyone could have switched positions on the relative importance of short-term and long-term issues when debating climate change.