The Administration should have endorsed a stimulus package based on a repeal of the corporate income tax and reductions in employment taxes. This policy would have accomplished its stated goals, and the budgetary implications would have been less negative than those of the package ultimately adopted because this alternative plan would have enhanced rather than detracted from economic efficiency. This approach would also have been difficult for Republicans to oppose.
Yet the Administration did not take this approach, presumably because its true goals were not just economic stimulus. Instead, the Administration wanted to reward its constituencies (unions, environmentalists, public education) and increase the size and scope of government. This tactic is consistent with the Administration’s policies in general. Across the board, it has taken a big government, redistributionist approach, whether regarding housing, unions, health, the auto industry, trade, antitrust, or financial regulation. The Administration’s view appears to be that government is better than individuals at deciding how taxpayers get to spend their money and that government should engineer large transfers from richer to poorer.
Whether the Administration’s stimulus package will be successful is still to be determined. If the extra spending ends up being productive, then the impact of the stimulus might be positive on net. My own prediction, however, is that the programs adopted will generate large distortions and substantial waste, with minor stimulus impact. This is a pity because much better alternatives were available.
I agree with Miron’s economic assessment. I would not have attributed the administration’s policies as a desire to “reward its constituencies” but rather to enhance “fairness” in the American economy. It just happens that his constituencies benefited from that enhancement. Quickly restoring full employment may be beyond the reach of any policy making alternative policies that attempt to achieve other objections, like increasing fairness, logical and while selling these policies as pro-growth may be a little disingenuous, such misdirection is the political norm.