Friday, February 6, 2009

Earth to Senate

Headlines on the Washington Post website this morning:

and The Times reports on the unemployment numbers:
It was the biggest monthly job loss since the economy tipped into a recession more than a year ago, and it was even worse than most forecasters had been predicting.

In addition, the government revised the estimates for previous months to include another 400,000 job losses. For December, the government revised the job loss to 577,000 compared with an initial reading of 524,000. Over all, it said, the nation has lost 3.6 million jobs since it slipped into a recession in December 2007.

“Businesses are panicked and fighting for survival and slashing their payrolls,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com. “I think we’re trapped in a very adverse, self-reinforcing cycle. The downturn is intensifying, and likely to intensify further unless policy makers respond aggressively.”
The Senate moderates, the folks who pride themselves on being the "sensible center" don't get it (and others really, really don't get it). Steven Pearlstein says the congressfolk need to hire personal economic trainers. As evidence, he provides a litany of economic stupidity from the stimulus debate, including:
"This is not a stimulus plan, it's a spending plan," Nebraska's freshman senator, Mike Johanns (R), said Wednesday in a maiden floor speech full of budget-balancing orthodoxy that would have made Herbert Hoover proud. The stimulus bill, he declared, "won't create the promised jobs. It won't activate our economy."

Johanns was too busy yesterday to explain this radical departure from standard theory and practice. Where does the senator think the $800 billion will go? Down a rabbit hole? Even if the entire sum were to be stolen by federal employees and spent entirely on fast cars, fancy homes, gambling junkets and fancy clothes, it would still be an $800 billion increase in the demand for goods and services -- a pretty good working definition for economic stimulus. The only question is whether spending it on other things would create more long-term value, which it almost certainly would.

Update: See Nick Kristof on one target of the moderates' misplaced "fiscal responsibility" - funding to help prevent state education cuts.

Update #2 (2/8):

Paul Krugman: That bill is our last hope.

Stan Collender: No, there is another.

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