Sometimes things just don’t add up.
The White House just revised its budget deficit projection for the next 10 years upward by $2 trillion—about $7K more for every man, woman and child in the U.S. The economy is now projected to shrink 2.8% this year, 1.6% higher than the previous guess. Meanwhile, President Obama announced his attention to reappoint Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman, complimenting him for his “bold action” and “outside the box” thinking. The best argument you can make for Bernanke is that “things could have been worse” without the Fed’s massive intervention in the economy. This narrative is strikingly similar to Obama’s frequent lament that Bush left him a bigger mess than he realized when he took office.
While Washington is spending us into massive debt to stimulate growth, the economy just hasn’t responded as originally projected. As Al Gore would say, everything that should be up is down, and everything that should be down is up. Meanwhile, we are still talking about more government spending and control in the health care arena. And don’t forget cap-and-trade.
If you think you’ve seen this movie before, you’re right. Roosevelt tried to spend his way out of the Depression, but unemployment remained at 19% in 1938. As FDR’s Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau testified in 1939: “We are spending more money than we have ever spent before, and it does not work. … I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. … I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started … and an enormous debt, to boot.”
Some resemblance of a recovery is likely, sooner or later. All of the money we are throwing at the economy is bound to spur enough activity to deliver some short term relief. But the current approach to the problem is akin to giving a heroin addict more of the drug so he can avoid the pain of withdrawal, without which he cannot begin to rebuild his life. Hopefully those who have been unable to learn the failures of Keynesian economics from history will now learn it from the current crisis.
If Obama thinks Bush left him with an economic mess, just wait until the next President has to clean up this one.