Scott Brown versus economic reality

“Failure should be admitted in Washington, and not repeated. With last month’s news that we lost another 85,000 jobs, and with unemployment stuck in the double digits, it’s time to admit that while the $787 billion stimulus had the best of intentions, it failed to create one new job.”

— Scott Brown, Boston Globe, Jan. 14

“Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Economy.com. They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative.”

— David Leonhardt, New York Times, Feb. 16

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35 thoughts on “Scott Brown versus economic reality

  1. BP Myers

    One would think that driving from Wrentham to Boston each day, up Route One, past all of the flag wavers and road crews and heavy equipment, past the signs reading “Another Project Paid for by the Stimulus Act,” that, you know, he might have conceded at least one job.

    Martha Coakley may have been an incompetent campaigner, and may not have known who Curt Schilling was, and of course I’d never vote for her for reasons we’ve discussed, but I don’t remember her flat-out lying.

  2. Art Kane

    The so-far most definitive journalistic indictment of the GOP’s monolithic obstructionism re the Stimulus Bill came from Rachel Maddow in her superlatively constructed disection of their hypocrisy on MSNBC. Watch it at:

  3. Bill Duncliffe

    Well, the unemployment rate went from what, 7+% January, 2009 to north of 10% in December, 2009?

    Would you feel better Dan if Senator Brown amended his statement to say “The $787B stimulus package has not appeared to create new jobs sufficient to offset jobs lost in the period.”

    Are you going to start holding everyone accountable for their campaign rhetorical flourishese and their statements about the stimulus? I eagerly await your discussion of the continuously repeated, absolutely unprovable refrain of how the stimulus has “saved” X number of jobs.

    BP Myers, come on. This discussion has gone on here before but let’s not pretend that highway projects didn’t exist before the stimulus.

    Never mind the proposition that steering added monies beyond those already allocated to highway projects may be applying a 1930′s era solution to an economy that in no way resembles that era.

  4. BP Myers

    “BP Myers, come on. This discussion has gone on here before but let’s not pretend that highway projects didn’t exist before the stimulus.”

    Strawman. Many of the highway projects going on NOW are directly attributable to the stimulus. Without that money, those workers are twiddling their thumbs.

    It is a lie to say the stimulus has not created a single job.

  5. Jp LaFond

    Mr. Duncliffe,

    I don’t think I can agree with your assertion about the shovel ready projects aspect of the stimulus. A big portion of the unemployed if I remember an article read correctly had to do with construction, etc… from the housing bubble. This portion of the stimulus seems to be ready made to fit into that section of the unemployed pool.

    Yes, highway projects existed before the stimulus, but so many states had so many budget woes that federal money was needed to turn them from aspirational into actual projects.

    How does this not count as ’saved’ or ‘created’ jobs?

    -J

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @JP and BP: Respected economic-research firms are no match for @Bill. After all, he drives past these projects every day, whereas the economists are just egghead trolls who never get out.

  6. Steve Stein

    Here is an overview from James Kwak of the most excellent “Baseline Scenario” blog of how the various economic models rate the success of the stimulus.

    There is a nod to Bill’s “stimulus has failed” attitude – “Of course, none of this will matter in the end because, as someone (Barney Frank?) said, you can’t get elected saying things would have been even worse without you.”

  7. Bill Duncliffe

    Jp – I don’t know the construction business very well but I don’t think that roofers, framers, drywallers and electricians easily transition over to road and infrastructure projects.

    “Saved” jobs is a new category of economic evaluation on which the Obama administration has received a free pass. I suppose that if one road construction job is extended becuase of stimulus money, for instance, that would count as a job “saved” but I see little calculation of the cost of “saving” that job. And unless there is a method of counting “Yes, that person was going to be laid off. Definitely” it’s more than a bit of a squishy number.

    I don’t think it’s a groundbreaking revelation to say that we live in an information economy. Yet we continually talk about the stimulus package in terms of road and infrastructure projects.

    Here’s a very partial list of companies that announced large layoffs in 2009 – Electronic Arts, Sprint, Verizon, Fidelity, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Qwest, Pfizer.

    It’s not clear to me how re-paving Rte. 495 helps a laid off systems analyst from Fidelity or a project manager at Sprint.

    I think that is the frustration that Senator Brown was expressing.

    Did you see the news that new unemployment claims are up this week?

  8. Melissa Perreault

    “It’s not clear to me how re-paving Rte. 495 helps a laid off systems analyst from Fidelity or a project manager at Sprint.”

    @Bill: I’m not an economist, so it’s possible people who know more about this than I (not to mention people who don’t) will pounce on me for this, but isn’t it possible that those folks repaving 495 will now have enough money to consider things like investing some savings at Fidelity or maybe getting that second Sprint cell phone for the family? As I understand it, the unemployed aren’t helping anyone’s economy, except perhaps for those who work at the unemployment office or job placement services.

  9. Mike Benedict

    The way I would look at it is, the last time we had such a crisis of confidence in our banking system, it took more than 10 years and a World War to bring us out of it.

    This time, it lasted four quarters. And god knows how many hundreds of billions it would have cost the taxpayers had unemployment shot up to 25% like it did in the 1930s. Unemployment benefits aren’t free.

    I would think stability is worth something.

  10. Stephen Thomas

    How about Dan Kennedy versus economic reality.

    The economic meltdown was caused by the actions of the Fed. President Obama played a significant role in that meltdown.

    Before I start talking the sort of sense that is beyond Dan’s understanding (must be an IQ problem or something), let me state that the actions of the Fed that led to the economic meltdown were bipartisan. Republicans and Democrats both contributed gasoline to the fire that burned down the financial system.

    The Fed forced banks to stop demanding proof of creditworthiness from borrowers in order to advance its war against “redlining.” This started with President Clinton, and continued through Bush’s presidency. Obama was a bottom feeder back in those days, profiteering with Acorn in the theft from the public treasury.

    Obama refused to accept public financing for his presidential campaign so that he could collect 3/4 of a billion, much of it from the very banks and investment houses that he now pretends to condemn.

    The bad mortgage paper created by the Fed is what caused the meltdown. Republicans and Democrats both participated gleefully in the thievery. Obama was one of the principle proponents of this thievery, and he is financed by the very banks and investment houses that played out the mortgage paper meltdown.

    So, now Obama is claiming to be our Messiah because he bailed out his friends with Federal money?

    A pox on both the Democrats and Republicans. Politicians caused this mess by interfering in the mortgage market in the great caused of “diversity.”

    Dan, do you have a lick of sense? Both parties stole from the public treasury to line their pockets. Salomon Brothers, often cited by Obama as one of the great villains of this story, contributed a fortune to Obama’s campaign. Salomon Brothers former execs man every position in Obama’s financial advisory board. Salomon Brothers is one of the principle recipients of the great Fed payoffs.

    The Fed forced lenders to make bad loans, and now the Fed is indemnifying those lenders from the consequences of those bad loans. The cost of the catastrophe has been downloaded to the taxpayers.

    This is a story of theft on a colossal scale from beginning to end. Are you saying that we’re supposed to be grateful to Obama for saving us from a catastrophe that he played a large role in causing?

    I wish that I could say that the Republicans were any better.

  11. Jp LaFond

    @Bill,

    There’s really nothing that’s going to sway you is there? If trickle down economics is supposed to help due to secondary factors as the rich spend their money, shouldn’t the secondary factors of average people sending their money as @Melissa said?

  12. Mike Benedict

    Stephen Thomas evidently doesn’t believe in a banking system. I’m guessing he gets paid in potatoes.

  13. Mike Benedict

    Not to mention, Salomon Brothers was bought in the late 1990s and disappeared completely by 2003, when Obama was still and Illinois state senator.

    Can’t wait for Stephen’s next conspiracy theory, though! This is better than 24.

  14. Stephen Thomas

    Not to mention, Salomon Brothers was bought in the late 1990s and disappeared completely by 2003, when Obama was still and Illinois state senator.

    Can’t wait for Stephen’s next conspiracy theory, though! This is better than 24.

    Mike, you are one of the most deliberately malicious misquoters I’ve encountered in a while. My actual statement:

    Salomon Brothers former execs man every position in Obama’s financial advisory board.

    Or is this just continued evidence of your problems with reading comprehension?

    Those former execs from Salomon Brothers now occupy CEO level positions in a wide variety of investment banks that were beneficiaries of the Fed’s bailout. Timothy Geithner is a former Salomon Brothers’ partner.

    Now, just once, if you are capable of comprehension, Mike, you might want to actually respond to what I actually said.

    Obama is only pretending to be slugging it out with investment banks. He took a fortune from investment banks to run for president. He’s bailing out the investment banks for writing a decade’s worth of bad mortgage paper.

    So, I’m just going to assume that you don’t have an answer. Obama has bailed out the investment banks, in essence indemnifying them for writing bad paper. Of course, Obama started his career hustling bad mortgages in cooperation of ACORN.

    Obama isn’t duking it out with the investment banking industry. He is the investment banking industry.

  15. BP Myers

    “Or is this just continued evidence of your problems with reading comprehension?”

    Salomon Brothers, often cited by Obama as one of the great villains of this story, contributed a fortune to Obama’s campaign. Salomon Brothers former execs man every position in Obama’s financial advisory board.

    I think he read it just fine. Also, I am unfamiliar with a body called the “Financial Advisory Board.” Do you have a link?

  16. Stephen Thomas

    So, here’s the problem, Dan. There is no difference between the two parties.

    President Bush did the same damned thing Obama did… bailed out his cronies for writing bad mortgage paper.

    Bush also pushed the no down payment, no credit check mortgages.

    President Clinton did the same thing.

    There’s a link here to the global warming, er, climate change, er, global weirding fiasco.

    The problem is called the Fallacy of Good Intentions. Say, you want to do something that seems on the face of it to be so good and wonderful that nobody can possibly oppose it in good faith. Say you want to legislate a perfectly green environment, or you want to extend home ownership to those lovely disadvantaged groups.

    The problem is that fallible, corruptible humans administer that legislation. So, the great green crusade becomes a con job to acquire huge government grants, the science has to be phonied up to justify the attempt to tax and regulate everything, the con artists get hold of it and milk it for tax write-offs… etc. Or, the great mortgage diversity crusade gets hijacked by con artists who pass the bad paper up the chain and run with the profits, while the taxpayer ultimately picks of the bill.

    This is why it is usually better for politicians to do nothing. I’m in favor of divided government, hobbled by partisanship. The less politicians to the better.

    We would all be better off it the great mortgage diversity crusade had never happened. Then, we wouldn’t need the great Obama to bail us out of the fix that he played a large part in creating.

  17. Mike Benedict

    Wow, so Obama now is a socialist and an investment banker.

    He’s the world’s first sovester. Gotcha. [Insert Sarah Palin wink here]

  18. Bill Duncliffe

    JP/Melissa – You are really describing “trickle up” economics vs. “trickle down.” Trickle down theory focuses on the investing class and how freeing the large numbers of dollars they control can be spread throughout the economy given the multiplier effect created.

    Trickle up would seem to focus $50K at a time which is an entirely different approach. Nevertheless I’m gratified to see tne new believers in Reagonomic thinking in this most unexpected place.

    Mike Benedict – I guess by your “it only took four quarters” statement you are saying that the current crisis has passed. God bless your confidence.

    But you are really making my point – after 7-8 years of “stimulus” what ended the Great Depression was revving up the nation’s industrial might through the declaration of war. If you think there was stability between 1932 and 1938/1939 (when the machine began to crank up) I think history argues differently.

  19. Mike Benedict

    @Bill: I guess by your “it only took four quarters” statement you are saying that the current crisis has passed. God bless your confidence.
    No, but it’s a tremendous result that even the nutjobs can’t spin away. And it’s a far better outcome than anything we saw in the 1930s.

    But you are really making my point – after 7-8 years of “stimulus” what ended the Great Depression was revving up the nation’s industrial might through the declaration of war. If you think there was stability between 1932 and 1938/1939 (when the machine began to crank up) I think history argues differently. No, I don’t think there was stability — unless “stability” means “no change to crappy conditions.” Not sure how you extrapolated that. Stability, as I was referring to it, meant a banking system that resisted runs, companies that remained solvent, and unemployment plateauing at a relatively low 10%, vs. spiking to 25% as was seen in the 1930s.

    I would hope that we don’t need yet another war to satisfy the rightwing’s thirst for spending.

  20. BP Myers

    “I would hope that we don’t need yet another war to satisfy the rightwing’s thirst for spending.”

    Iran? I’d like you to meet Mike.

    Mike? This is Iran.

  21. Stephen Thomas

    So, Dan, you just wrote a piece about right-wing loons.

    What about left-wing loons? You’ve got BP, Bill and Mike… raving loons if I’ve ever seen them… and believe me I’ve seen them.

    Try mentioning the word “Israel” in one of your posts.

    That should produce an amusing result.

  22. Bill Duncliffe

    BP? This is the 3rd largest oil-reserve country in the world suddenly proclaiming its need for nuclear facilities.

    Really a separate topic and I would sure like to find a way short of war to cripple this activity in Iran but let’s not pretend this is a rightwing/leftwing issue. Any acquisition of nuclear weapon capabilities by this regime is tremendously dangerous to every other country on the face of this earth.

  23. Mike Benedict

    @BP: Why stop there? North Korea? Check. China? Check. Russia? Check. And if they were vanquished, the right would imagine several more.

    We’ve always had dragons. As Charles Krauthammer once wrote in Time, “it’s OK to slay them one at a time.”

  24. Mike Benedict

    @Stephen: raving loons if I’ve ever seen them… and believe me I’ve seen them.

    Yep…every time you look in the mirror.

  25. Dan Storms

    @Bill, Paul Krugman, Joseph Siglitz, and Dean Baker, among other prize-winning economists, have put the lie to the “Only WWII brought us out of the Depression” meme. Unemployment dropped, productivity increased, credit became available again, business expanded in every year between FDR’s first inaugural and 1937. In that year, Roosevelt listened to political centerists and decided that stimulus had gone far enough and perhaps too far. He cut government spending, which threw the economy back into recession, which indeed was alleviated by war spending.

    @Stephen Thomas: you, sir, are a boor and a bully who apparently never learned that insult and invective are no substitute for rational argument. Dan’s blog would be more pleasant if you would just go pound sand quietly in the corner.

  26. BP Myers

    “Any acquisition of nuclear weapon capabilities by this regime is tremendously dangerous to every other country on the face of this earth.”

    They have as much right to them as anyone.

    But, you’re right.

    It is a subject for another day.

  27. BP Myers

    Politifact has provided the definitive response on the issue.

    “But that’s not what Brown said. He said the stimulus bill “didn’t create one new job” and, when asked to clarify, he said it “hasn’t created any new jobs.” It’s perfectly reasonable to question whether the $862 billion was well spent and whether it is good economic policy. But that money has clearly resulted in tens of thousands of jobs that wouldn’t exist otherwise. It’s preposterous to claim that no new jobs came out of it. We find his claim Pants on Fire!”

  28. Steve Stein

    Perhaps now we should be worried about Scott Brown versus common decency? When questioned about the suicide terrorist attack on a Texas IRS office, Brown said:

    “I don’t know if it’s related but I can just sense not only in my election, but since being here in Washington, people are frustrated.”

    Is it really all about Scott Brown for this guy?

  29. BP Myers

    “When questioned about the suicide terrorist attack on a Texas IRS office, Brown said:”

    And at the 1:58 mark of the video, he calls it “Ted Kennedy’s seat.”

    It wasn’t Ted Kennedy’s seat, sir. It’s The Peoples Seat.

  30. Ben Rivard-Rapoza

    It would be hard to spend that much money and _not_ create (or at least save) some jobs. But this kind of stimulus is not ultimately sustainable. We’ve been doing the same thing for the last ten years. It’s excessive stimulus, monetary and fiscal, that allowed the housing bubble to form. This is not the time for more of the same. Keynes sold deficit spending as a one-shot deal to “prime the pump” – not an economic policy to pursue for a generation.

    Scott Brown is supposed to offer his own plan for battling unemployment on Fox News this weekend, so that should be interesting.

  31. BP Myers

    “Scott Brown is supposed to offer his own plan for battling unemployment on Fox News this weekend, so that should be interesting.”

    Let me save you the trouble of watching it:

    Tax cuts.

    You’re welcome.

  32. Stephen Thomas

    Brown won the election.

    You might as well get used to it.

    “Any acquisition of nuclear weapon capabilities by this regime is tremendously dangerous to every other country on the face of this earth.”

    They have as much right to them as anyone.

    But, you’re right.

    It is a subject for another day.

    You see, I told you that I can’t wait for the post that mentions Israel. Iran, which has promised to use its nuclear capability to wipe Israel off the face of the earth has as much right to them as anyone.

    Predictable. C’mon, Dan, put up your Israel vs. Hamas and Hezbollah bit. I can’t wait. Show your true colors.

    And, for the clown who’s decided to leave obscenities on my website in retaliation for whatever fool grievance he thinks he’s got… I can erase as many of them as you can drop.

    Just the sort of behavior I’d expect from a “progressive.” Obscenity laced tirades have, in fact, become the trademark of the progressive.

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