Why liberalism failed Obama

Allan Meltzer:

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Two overarching reasons explain the failure of Obamanomics. First, administration economists and their outside supporters neglected the longer-term costs and consequences of their actions. Second, the administration and Congress have through their deeds and words heightened uncertainty about the economic future. High uncertainty is the enemy of investment and growth.

Most of the earlier spending was a very short-term response to long-term problems. One piece financed temporary tax cuts. This was a mistake, and ignores the role of expectations in the economy. Economic theory predicts that temporary tax cuts have little effect on spending. Unless tax cuts are expected to last, consumers save the proceeds and pay down debt. Experience with past temporary tax reductions, as in the Carter and first Bush presidencies, confirms this outcome.

Another large part of the stimulus went to relieve state and local governments of their budget deficits. Transferring a deficit from the state to the federal government changes very little. Some teachers and police got an additional year of employment, but their gain is temporary. Any benefits to them must be balanced against the negative effect of the increased public debt and the temporary nature of the transfer.

The Obama economic team ignored past history. The two most successful fiscal stimulus programs since World War II—under Kennedy-Johnson and Reagan—took the form of permanent reductions in corporate and marginal tax rates. Economist Arthur Okun, who had a major role in developing the Kennedy-Johnson program, later analyzed the effect of individual items. He concluded that corporate tax reduction was most effective.

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Mr. Obama has denied the cost burden on business from his health-care program, but business is aware that it is likely to be large. How large? That's part of the uncertainty that employers face if they hire additional labor.

The president asks for cap and trade. That's more cost and more uncertainty. Who will be forced to pay? What will it do to costs here compared to foreign producers? We should not expect businesses to invest in new, export-led growth when uncertainty about future costs is so large.

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There is more.

This is a good analysis. I think the reason that liberal Democrats rejected the more effective means of stimulating the economy, is that they do not fit their control freak agenda.

The administration and its Democrat allies in Congress have focused their energies on "death star" legislation that they have not read, that attempts to micromanage everything from health care to finance, and one of their next objectives to micromanage the use of energy which will impact every aspect of our lives they have not already grabbed.

Their micromanagement will be no more effective than that of the Soviet Union or any other society that tries to control people by controlling the means of production. It is ironic that in their attempts to control everything they have injected uncertainty into the economy.

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