Tag Archives: state aid

The New York Times Gets It Right

Cross posted at myDD

A week after the the Washington Post completely botched their assessment of a second stimulus package, the New York Times turns around and nails it.

Their editorial entitled "No End in Site" lays out perfectly what the next few steps should be to help the economy whether this current storm. They begin by stating the obvious:

Lawmakers need to start crafting the next stimulus bill — without repeating the mistakes of the last one. Composed mainly of tax rebates, as the White House wanted, the first stimulus was too broad to deliver a powerful punch.

Amen. It is clear that the first round of stimulus checks didn't work. The editorial then confirms what many experts have been saying is a real potentially relief-filled measure that Congress needs to take with the second stimulus package:

The next package has to focus on actions that are known to yield big economic benefits: bolstered food stamps, which rapidly boost consumption; and aid to states and cities so they can continue to provide essential services.

Lawmakers should also invest in infrastructure projects, like repairing bridges and roads. If not, projects that are already under way may have to be canceled, creating more unemployment.

Thank you. The fact that state and city governments are not asking for money to continue radical spending on pet projects, but instead to protect essential services like education and health care seems to be lost on the minds of those who are not in favor of including state aid in a second stimulus package. Every week there are stories upon stories of states being forced to slash budgets, pay, and jobs. They are a linch pin of the economy and no one seems to notice. And investing in infrastructure will ensure that we don't add thousands of workers who make their living off of said infrastructure projects. The construction industry has been hit hard enough as is.

The editorial also touches on a response to the home foreclosure crisis:

Congress also needs to ensure that a $4 billion grant to states and cities to buy up vacant properties is quickly and efficiently distributed. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is developing the formula for allocating the money, and early indications suggest it is on top of the process. But the White House is contemptuous of the grant, calling it a gift to speculators when it is actually a lifeline for ailing communities.

If you aren't a Bush republican who just hates any sort of aid not aimed at the highest income bracket, then the main criticism of this effort is that is simply not enough to have an impact on the housing market. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen, but it is still $4 billion to help turn foreclosed properties that the states with said properties currently do not have. In that regard it is a stabilizing factor, even if it is not the stabilizing factor that ultimately turns the foreclosure crisis around. As the editorial says, it is a lifeline for ailing communities who simply do not have the money do to anything with these foreclosed homes.

The time for action is now, but because Congress is in recess the time for action will actually be September. The article suggests the difficulty with creating a second stimulus package in an election year, but brings up the most important point of them all:

Millions of Americans are already suffering. And we fear millions more will be hurt before this crisis ends. They cannot wait until after the election for help.

A very valid point. It's hard to care about battleground polls, attack ads, and town halls when you're losing your job and your home.

The Experts On A Second Stimulus Package

Matthew D. Shapiro and Joel Slemrod of the University of Michigan know what they’re talking about. They wrote what many consider to be THE paper on the 2001 stimulus payment and now, according to the Wall Street Journal Real Time Economics Blog, have taken a look at the preliminary data on the 2008 stimulus payments. Where did the money go? It’s not too surprising:

The change in the personal saving rate corresponds closely to the size of the rebate as a percentage of disposable income. The figure shows how most of the rebate payments appear to have gone straight into saving.

Which is clearly not what President Bush had in mind when he drew up the checks in the first place.

That most of the rebate checks were saved is, though, consistent with the results we find using the University of Michigan Survey of Consumers. When consumers were asked whether their stimulus check would lead them to “mostly spend, mostly save, or mostly pay down debt,” only 18% answered that it would lead them to mostly spend more.

That statement is also pretty much in line with what has been reported in the past couple of months. Still, many have been hearing reports recently that feature consumers talking about how they are spending their rebate checks, making some question whether or not it had more of an effect than originally thought. Shapiro and Slemrod don’t buy this argument all the way:

Does such consumer behavior correspond to spending that would stimulate the economy? That depends on what the consumers would have done if they had not received the rebate check. If they would have not made those purchases absent the rebate, then the rebate was spent. If the rebate let them avoid running up higher credit card bills for gas and groceries they would have purchased even without the rebate, then the rebate was saved.

Thus the rosy predictions of Americans flocking to stores to spend their rebate checks may not necessarily indicate that they are having the desired effect of stimulating the economy. And what is their overall analysis of how this first stimulus package worked out?

Nonetheless, the rebates are likely to be less effective in stimulating the economy than policymakers had hoped.

In reality Shapiro and Slemrod only add another reliable source to the masses who have highlighted the failure of the first stimulus package to boost the economy. They also join another group that has been picking up steam lately; those who think investing in the states should be a central tenant of any new stimulus package:

If a second round of stimulus is necessary, other options that should be on the table. These include payments to states that will need to cut spending because of balanced budget provisions as their tax revenue falls. Additionally, policymakers should consider increased infrastructure investment on items such as roads and bridges.

Both of these are great ideas. Though they ask the question, is a second round of stimulus necessary? All I can say is look around.

Here in California the state budget impasse is rounding the track on its 6th week (they were supposed to have something figured out by July 1st.) Governor Schwarzenegger has been favoring scare tactics over real negotiation with state Democrats. Ask the 200,000 state employees who had their salaries reduced to minimum wage if they think a second round of stimulus is necessary. Ask the 10,000 plus seasonal and student workers who lost their jobs if they think a second round of stimulus is necessary.

In New York, Governor Patterson is calling the state legislator back into session to address a projected $6 billion budget gap next year and a gap that could ballon to $26 billion in three years. They say everything is on the table for cuts. I’m sure they could use a little help.

These are just two of countless examples of states in need of some aid. Here’s to hoping that when Congress comes back into session next month they do so with the recommendations of Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Slemrod in mind.