Obama’s incessant campaign call for the past months had been to demand the “Republican Congress” PASS IT NOW. The “It” is, of course, another stimulus plan, excuse me, “jobs bill;” you see the word “stimulus” has, by fiat, been stricken from the Democrat’s lexicon–must be something to do with the pejorative connotation generated by the last stimulus! Anyway, the new stimulus consist of: 1. Temporary payroll tax cuts, 2. Temporary extension of unemployment benefits to two years, 3. Additional debt to finance public sector jobs, and 4. Higher taxes on “the rich.” That this is an insincere reelection effort on his part can be of little doubt, since he knows it would not pass even his Democratic controlled Senate, much less the House.
Stimulus by whatever name it is called should, nonetheless, be subjected to economic analysis and Art Laffer, that infamous supply-sider, has obliged in the current issue of National Review. Laffer calls it a “four point plan for failure.” His article is worth a summary here, with full attribution:
Payroll tax: This is broad-based but effects only the moderately paid workers; it stops at a bit over $100,000 of annual compensation. Broad-based, low-rate taxes are generally good since there is little incentive to avoid them, so a reduction in these taxes presents little incentive to work or not to work, to hire or not to hire. Laffer points out that a reduction in this tax will not effect the decision makers typically earning over the $100K limit and much of that in dividends and capital gains. Laffers point is that cutting the payroll tax, temporarily, will not effect hiring or seeking employment. In other words, it doesn’t effect any job creation.
Extending unemployment benefits to almost two years: Laffer uses a time tested analogy to the Department of Agriculture payments: pay farmers to grow and they grow; pay them not to grow and they don’t grow. Simple: people respond to economic incentives. Obama wants to pay people not to work for almost two years. Obviously, they will take the money. And, by the way, not look very hard for that next job. In short, this is a big negative to job creation.
More deficit stimulus spending: Here we get in to the so-called Keynesian multiplier: the recipients of the extra federal dollar will spend a portion of it thereby creating new jobs which induce more spending thus more new new jobs. This “marginal propensity to consume” gives us the “multiplier;” or $1 divided by $1 minus that marginal propensity to consume. So if the marginal propensity to consume is only 50 cents, the multiplier effect is $2 for ever $1 borrowed! Thus the Keynesians have magically created money!
Wow! What’s missing here? Well, to get that dollar of federal largess, the federal government must take that dollar from someone else. In this case it must take not only that dollar, but it must run that dollar through the federal bureaucracy, then it must pay interest on that dollar because it borrowed the dollar. In short, the economic effect is to rob Peter, waste part of the loot on bureaucracy and interest, and pay Paul the balance. The economic effect is not neutral but is NEGATIVE. It destroys jobs, the jobs that would otherwise be created by Peter via his spending or investment! Look no further for proof than Obama’s last stimulus expenditures.
To cap off the point Laffer offers the “Slutsky equation:” This aggregates the deficit financed stimulus, both debits and credits. “By taking resources from those who produce and giving resources to those who don’t produce, government reduces the incentives to work for both parties. Output, employment, and production will fall.”
Higher taxes on “the rich:” It’s hard to tell if Obama wants to raise revenue or merely redistribute income with this effort. If raising income is the goal, increasing tax rates at the highest brackets will have the opposite effect; lowering tax rates on that bracket however will raise revenue. The simple reason is that those earners in the highest tax brackets have the ability to minimise marginal taxes by converting income to capital gains, deferring income, and shifting income; and they have access to tax accountants, investment advisors and attorneys to help in this process. If, on the other hand, he merely wants to redistribute income or wealth, he succeeds in his election tactic of creating class warfare but he fails in his so-called job creation purpose. And this for the same reason suggested by the “Slutsky equation.” Taking money from the producers and giving it to the non-producers has a negative effect on both; it’s a double disincentive!
In sum, our President is a campaigner who has a negative record on which to run. He has created a straw man with his rants against the “Republican Congress” failing to mention the Democrat controlled Senate which is fully one-half of that Congress. And he has come up with a sure-to-fail stimulus plan which he will use to deflect voter attention away from his abysmal record.