Brooks Does the Big Lie on Stimulus (with no shame)
|Thursday, 26 April 2012 23:22|
David Brooks is playing the "it's all so confusing, we just can't really know anything about economic policy" game. The point is to try to make it intellectually respectable to question whether stimulus spending can boost the economy.
This is important for the right, because the evidence from the austerity induced double-dip in the UK and euro zone is making it ever harder to deny that government spending can and does stimulate the economy just as the old textbook models predict. In the wake of this evidence, it is incredibly valuable that someone like Brooks, who can claim credibility by virtue of his perch on the NYT oped page, muddy the waters with this sort of "it's all so confusing" piece.
The way to understand Brooks' column, which is ostensibly about the difficulty of sorting out whether government policies work, but which is really about confusing the issue on stimulus, is to imagine that the topic was evolution or the orbit of the earth around the sun. If a person was committed to denying evolution they could easily point to all the mistakes that biologists had made over the years in constructing evolutionary paths. Similarly, one could deny that the earth orbits the sun by pointing to all the difficulties that astronomers encountered over the years in properly calculating its orbit. As Brooks would say, it's all so confusing, it's too bad that we don't have some way to determine these issues.
Of course honest people know that we have ways to determine these issues and it has long been a settled issue that evolution explains the structure of the biological world and that the earth orbits the sun. Similarly, it is simply not true, as Brooks claims:
"Nearly 80 years later, it’s hard to know if the New Deal did much to end the Great Depression."
Nor is it Brooks being honest in saying:
"Many esteemed and/or Nobel Prize-winning economists like Joseph Stiglitz, Larry Summers and Christina Romer argued that it would help lift the economy out of recession. ....
We went ahead and spent the roughly $800 billion. What have we learned?