Monday, July 13, 2009

Too Soon to Judge Current Stimulus Package

The WSJ's Corey Boles brings some common sense to the table:

According to the report, 90% of the money distributed has come in the form of increased federal education and health-care grants to state governments...[but] most of the spending money from the stimulus plan had yet to go out, and so it was too soon to tell whether it was working.

The author says that $29 billion out of the $787 billion stimulus package has been given to state governments. The WSJ author also writes that of the money that has been spent, almost all of it has gone to state governments, presumably to prevent layoffs and the stoppage of essential services.

Unless I'm missing something, the $29 billion number does not represent the total amount distributed so far. The federal government's own website states that a total of $60.4 billion has been paid out. The government's website is quite interesting, because it shows several non-U.S. states receiving millions of dollars from the Recovery Act. For example, Palau is receiving about $2 million. I don't necessarily mind these smaller outlays--it's good to have friends all over the world--but why did it have to part of the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009"?

In any case, although we still have hundreds of billions of dollars to go, many people, including Paul Krugman, are already recommending a second stimulus plan. A second stimulus plan seems premature at this stage. Hundreds of billions of dollars have yet to be distributed. Haven't these second-stimulus people heard the (sarcastic) remark, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money”? Sarcasm aside, shouldn't we wait a little longer for the current stimulus money to work its way through the system before devising a Plan B?

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