I'm going to repeat some quotes from previous diaries, while adding some new ones. If you care about the economy and about the political impact the economy might have on next year's elections, they might be worth considering.
The New York Times:
In interviews, a broad range of economists said the White House and Congress were right to structure the package as a mix of tax cuts and spending, rather than just tax cuts as Republicans prefer or just spending as many Democrats do. And it is fortuitous, many say, that the money gets doled out over two years — longer for major construction — considering the probable length of the "jobless recovery" under way as wary employers hold off on new hiring.
But there are criticisms, mainly that the Obama team relied last winter on overly optimistic economic assumptions and oversold the job-creating benefits of the stimulus package.
Optimistic assumptions in turn contributed to producing a package that if anything is too small, analysts say. "The economy was weaker than we thought at the time, so maybe in retrospect we could have used a little bit more and little bit more front-loaded," said Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, another financial analysis group, in St. Louis.
US capacity utilisation rates are around 70 per cent and even lower in Manufacturing.
The official unemployment rate was 10.2 per cent in October 2009.
The BLS U6 broader labour underutilisation rate is at 17.5 per cent in October ... can I repeat that ... 17.5 per cent. That, as Ed Harrison has pointed out repeatedly, is a depression-like number.
Foreclosures are still rising and are at dangerously high levels in terms of the viability of the overall housing market
Our children are increasingly being fed by food stamps. In some black neighbourhoods "around 90 per cent live in homes that receive food stamps at one stage or another".
Obama’s attempts at deficit expansion to date have been pitiful. There has been very little focused on creating jobs and instead have constituted a massive subsidy to Wall Street, in effect providing a direct financial incentive to reward bad behaviour. In spite of their pitiful attempts at apology, the likes of Goldman Sachs understand that better than most. To aid the recovery, Goldman launched a scheme to help 10,000 small businesses, to which it will donate $500m over five years. Some were left unimpressed; Goldman pulled in at least $82 billion ... trading just in the 2nd & 3rd quarters of 2009. It has set aside $16.7 billion for pay and compensation so far this year, according to the NY Times.
At any rate, what we desperately need to do is to increase our deficit by several percentage points of GDP and offer public sector jobs to all those who want one....
But by far the majority of the unemployed workers could be offered a minimum wage job to work on community and environmental care projects for as long as they desired. I would suggest we also raise the minimum wage so that everyone has access to decent housing and health care etc.
Think the worst is over? Wrong. Conditions in the U.S. labor markets are awful and worsening. While the official unemployment rate is already 10.2% and another 200,000 jobs were lost in October, when you include discouraged workers and partially employed workers the figure is a whopping 17.5%.
While losing 200,000 jobs per month is better than the 700,000 jobs lost in January, current job losses still average more than the per month rate of 150,000 during the last recession...
The average length of unemployment is at an all time high; the ratio of job applicants to vacancies is 6 to 1; initial claims are down but continued claims are very high and now millions of unemployed are resorting to the exceptional extended unemployment benefits programs and are staying in them longer...
There's really just one hope for our leaders to turn things around: a bold prescription that increases the fiscal stimulus with another round of labor-intensive, shovel-ready infrastructure projects, helps fiscally strapped state and local governments and provides a temporary tax credit to the private sector to hire more workers.
As it is, job-creation efforts are generally indirect. Tax cuts and transfers in the hope that people will spend them; aid to state governments in the hope of averting layoffs. Even infrastructure spending is routed through private contractors.
You can make a pretty good case that just employing a lot of people directly would be a lot more cost-effective; the WPA and CCC cost surprisingly little given the number of people put to work. Think of it as the stimulus equivalent of getting the middlemen out of the student loan program.
Just to be clear, I believe that a large enough conventional stimulus would do the trick. But since that doesn’t seem to be in the cards, we need to talk about cheaper alternatives that address the job problem directly. Should we introduce an employment tax credit, like the one proposed by the Economic Policy Institute? Should we introduce the German-style job-sharing subsidy proposed by the Center for Economic Policy Research? Both are worthy of consideration.
The point is that we need to start doing something more than, and different from, what we’re already doing. And the experience of other countries suggests that it’s time for a policy that explicitly and directly targets job creation.
Krugman again, agreeing with Brad DeLong, that the risk of an actual depression is rising.
Why? Because bank-friendly policies have squandered public trust in all government action: try talking to the general public about stimulus, and it’s all confounded in their minds with the deeply unpopular bailouts.
In my estimation the chances of another big downward shock to the U.S. economy--a shock that would carry us from the 1/3-of-a-Great-Depression we have now to 2/3 or more--are about 5%. And it now looks very much as if if such a shock hits the U.S. government will be unable to do a d----- thing about it.
We could cushion the impact of another big downward shock by a lot more deficit spending--unemployment, after all, goes down whenever anybody spends more (even though sometimes falling unemployment comes at too-high a price in rising inflation), and the government's money is as good as anybody else's. But the centrist Democratic legislative caucus has now dug in its heels behind the position that we cannot undertake more deficit spending right now because we have a dire structural health-care financing proble afrer 2030. The Republican legislative causes has now dug in its heels behind the position that the fact that unemployment is 10% shows not that policy earlier this year was too cautious but rather that it was ineffective. And the Obama administration has not been able or has not tried to move either of those groups out of their current entrenchments.
The Obama administration erred in asking for too small a stimulus, especially after making political compromises that caused it to be less effective than it could have been. It made another mistake in designing a bank bailout that gave too much money with too few restrictions on too favorable terms to those who caused the economic mess in the first place – a policy that has dampened taxpayers' appetite for more spending.
But that is politics. The economics is clear: the world needs all the advanced industrial countries to commit to another big round of real stimulus spending.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz said the US recession is "nowhere near" an end and the economy’s third-quarter growth rate of 3.5 percent, the first expansion in more than a year, won’t carry into 2010.
While this week’s figures on gross domestic product are "very good," the numbers would be "miserable" without stimulus measures enacted by the Obama administration, Stiglitz said at a forum in Shanghai. He urged the US and other countries not to pull back on efforts to shore up economies.
"When we look at if workers can get jobs, if they can work full time, if businesses are able to sell goods they produce, in those terms, we are nowhere near the end of recession" in the US, said Stiglitz, 66, the former chief economist at the World Bank. The US job market is still "in very bad shape."
And the kicker, if you care about the politics, from CNN:
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday morning indicates that 38 percent of the public blames Republicans for the country's current economic problems. That's down 15 points from May, when 53 percent blamed the GOP. According to the poll 27 percent now blame the Democrats for the recession, up 6 points from May. Twenty-seven percent now say both parties are responsible for the economic mess.
"The bad news for the Democrats is that the number of Americans who hold the GOP exclusively responsible for the recession has been steadily falling by about two to three points per month," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "At that rate, only a handful of voters will blame the economy on the Republicans by the time next year's midterm elections roll around."
Thirty-six percent of people questioned say that President Barack Obama's policies have improved economic conditions, with 28 percent feeling that the president's programs have made things worse, and 35 percent saying what he's done has had no effect on the economy.