” … under questioning from skeptical Republicans, the director of the nonpartisan (and widely respected) Congressional Budget Office was emphatic about the value of the 2009 stimulus. And, he said, the vast majority of economists agree.
In a survey conducted by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 80 percent of economic experts agreed that, because of the stimulus, the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been otherwise.
“Only 4 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed,” CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told the House Budget Committee. “That,” he added, “is a distinct minority.”
Elmendorf’s testimony came in response to questions from Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a member of the tea party caucus. Huelskamp asserted that the stimulus was a failure because it did not keep the jobless rate below 8 percent, as the Obama administration predicted.
“Where did Washington mess up?” Huelskamp demanded. “Because you’re saying most economists think it should’ve worked. It didn’t.”
Most economists not only think it should have worked; they think it did work, Elmendorf replied. CBO’s own analysis found that the package added as many as 3.3 million jobs to the economy during the second quarter of 2010, and may have prevented the nation from lapsing back into recession.”
Most Republicans cannot bring themselves to admit it, but by any definition the Obama stimulus worked, pulling the economy out of a death spiral that probably would have resulted in a far-worse economic crisis. It’s also pretty damn clear that if similar circumstances should arise again, this Congress would refuse to act as it did three years ago. To the contrary, they would sit back and applaud as it all comes tumbling down around our ears.
Today’s conservative congressional majority also bitterly opposes TARP, which to his credit was pushed by President Bush out of fear that “this sucker could go down.” Despite Bush’s strong support and the insistence of economists across the ideological spectrum, a majority of House Republicans voted against its passage in the crisis of 2008. And of course, today’s GOP caucus is far more conservative than it was four years ago.
In the Senate, 16 of the 30 Republicans who voted in favor of TARP in 2008 will have left either the Senate or the party by the end of this year, many because they no longer are acceptable to the GOP base. That’s a remarkable amount of turnover in a short period of time. Again, most of those 16 have been replaced by far more conservative candidates who would not dare to support passage of TARP-like legislation should the need arise again.
And again, without TARP the entire global financial sector would have imploded upon itself, creating an economic calamity that would make our current problems seem mild.
The same is true of the auto-industry rescue. The current Congress would never have supported its passage. And while Mitt Romney implausibly seeks to take credit for the rebound of the auto industry, it is absolutely clear that under the terms that he insisted upon, the rescue plan could not have happened.
In other words, every major governmental intervention that succeeded in pulling the economy back from the brink in the crisis of 2008-09 would be rejected by those now in control of the U.S. House; passage in the Senate would be much more difficult as well. If we were to face another such challenge — touched off by a crisis in Europe, perhaps, or a major blow-up in the oil-rich Middle East — they would be quite content to stand by and “let this sucker go down.”
Some, I fear, might even take a perverse Puritan-like pleasure in seeing it happen.
– Jay Bookman