It's clear that President Barack Obama's $787-billion stimulus hasn't worked as advertised, but some economists are worried it could backfire and cause something much worse.
According to a new study by economists Charles Rowley of George Mason University and Nathanael Smith of the Locke Institute and endorsed by Nobel laureate James Buchanan, the Keynesian tactics employed by Obama "will ultimately hamper the long-term growth potential of the U.S. economy and may risk delaying full economic recovery by several years." The study accuses the president of making Depression-era mistakes.
Stephen Moore, member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board and senior economics writer, explained the study on Fox News "On the Record" Sept. 7 and said that the stimulus certainly hasn't lived up to its billing.
"Well, it certainly isn't working as well as the White House expected, Jamie," Moore said. "We know that because the president said if we pass this stimulus, we wouldn't have an unemployment rate above 8 percent. In fact, now we have an unemployment rate that's closing in on 10 percent. We've lost 2 million jobs. We were supposed to have created 2 million jobs. So when the President says the job of recovery isn't done yet, I hope they're not done yet because we've got 15 million Americans unemployed."
Moore said the point of the Rowley and Smith study was that huge amounts of inefficient government spending that incurred debt were not good for the long-term prognosis of the economy.
"I think that the point of that article and the study you're talking about, Jamie, is that we know from history that when you have huge amounts of debt and huge amounts of government spending, contrary to what a lot of economists believe - that doesn't cause economic growth," Moore continued. "That actually causes more Americans to lose their job because you have this huge amount of debt and the government usually spends the money on inefficient things."
Moore said the administration's argument that things would have been a lot worse without the stimulus isn't the most defensible position. The perceived success of the stimulus would depend on the psychology of the consumer and out-of-work Americans.
"You can never argue against what might have otherwise happened," Moore said. "But all we really have to go on is what the promise was made when they approved that $800-billion package, Jamie, you remember it. The President went on national TV and said, ‘If we do this, we'll keep the unemployment rate less than 8 percent.' We have today the highest unemployment rate in 26 years at 9.7 percent and Jamie, it's worse than that because if you include people who are looking for jobs - for full-time work - because a lot of Americans are working but they can't find a full-time job. They're working maybe 15 or 20 hours a week. If you want to include those people, the real unemployment rate in the United States is about 16 percent. So those are abysmal numbers."
However, Moore wasn't as pessimistic about the prospects of the economy as the study's authors were. He told "On the Record" guest host Jamie Colby the economy would recover, but it all depended on the job market and not other indicators.
"Now, I do think we're gonna see a recovery," Moore said. "I do think the kind of natural animal spirits of this economy and the entrepreneurial spirit of America is we're going to see a recovery. The real question is, are we going to get the jobs back? And I really believe - contrary to what Vice President Biden says, to most Americans, a recovery is not when the stock market goes up, or when businesses have higher profits. It is when Americans feel secure in their jobs which they don't right now and when the unemployed feel that they can out and find a job, which they can't. We're losing jobs faster than we're creating them right now."