CHARTS THAT PROVE THE POINT…. The New York Times had a terrific report the other day, explaining that the stimulus package is “working,” polls and Republican talking points notwithstanding.
Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Economy.com and an occasional adviser to lawmakers from both parties, said, “[T]he stimulus is doing what it was supposed to do — it is contributing to ending the recession.” Zandi added that without the recovery bill, the “G.D.P. would still be negative and unemployment would be firmly over 11 percent. And there are a little over 1.1 million more jobs out there as of October than would have been out there without the stimulus.”
What I didn’t realize is that the piece included some very helpful charts, featuring projections of key economic indicators from three companies that specialize in macroeconomic forecasting. (via Matt Yglesias). You’ll notice, of course, the black line and the gray line — the black representing progress with the recovery plan, the gray representing what would have happened without it.
There are several angles to keep in mind here. First, opponents of the stimulus would have us believe the recovery plan has failed. Those are, oddly enough, the same people who got us into this economic mess in the first place. They were wrong then, and they’re wrong now.
Second, as Brad DeLong explained, the people providing the data for the NYT charts are economists “who sell their forecasts to paying clients.” In other words, these aren’t political players who have an incentive to skew the data — to stay in business, they have to get these trends right. And when it comes to the stimulus, they’re unanimous in their beliefs that the Recovery Act helped the economy considerably, and will continue to do so next year.
Third, my only complaint about the charts is that there isn’t a third line — one for the economy with the stimulus, one for the economy with no intervention, and one with what we would have seen if we’d taken the Republicans’ advice. It was, after all, 95% of congressional Republicans who, at the height of the crisis, voted for a truly insane five-year spending freeze.
How they feel justified complaining now, rather than thanking president for preventing an economic catastrophe, is a point of ongoing concern.
There’s no mystery here. The debate is over. The economy is obviously still struggling, but the stimulus did what it was supposed to do, and has made a real, positive difference.
Conservatives were wrong about Reagan’s tax increases. They were wrong about Clinton’s tax increases. They were wrong about Bush’s tax cuts. And they’re wrong again now.
That Republicans still manage to talk about economic policy at all demonstrates a remarkable amount of chutzpah.