The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein is out with one of the most sobering assessments of the past three years of U.S. economic policy and the effects of the stimulus.
The progressive blogger and columnist writes that government is ill-equipped to respond to recessions, underestimating their scale and low-balling the response — using the 2009 stimulus bill as a cautionary tale.
“Yet the Obama administration did too little. Its team of interventionist Keynesians immersed in the lessons of the Depression and Japan did too little. Everyone does too little, even when they think they’re erring on the side of doing too much. That’s one reason “this time” is almost never different.
The tendency thus far has been to look at these crises in terms of the identifiable economic factors that make them different from typical recessions. But perhaps the better approach is to look at the political factors that make them turn out the same, that stop governments from doing enough even when they have sworn to err on the side of doing too much.
These crises have a sort of immune system. It is never possible for the political system to do enough to stop them at the outset, as it is never quite clear how bad they are. Even if it were, the system is ill-equipped to take action at that scale. The actors comfort themselves with the thought that if they need to do more, they can do it later. And, for now, the fact that this is the largest rescue package anyone has ever seen has to be worth something.
Perversely, the very size of the package is part of its problem. With something extraordinary that is nevertheless not enough, the economy deteriorates, and the government sees its solutions discredited and its political standing weakened by the worsening economic storm. That keeps it from doing more.
Meanwhile, the opposition’s capacity to do more is arguably even more limited, as it has turned against whatever policies were tried in the first place. Add in the almost inevitable run-up in government debt, which imposes constraints in the eyes of the voters and, in some cases, in the eyes of the markets, and an economy that started by not doing enough is never able to get in front of the crisis.
These sorts of economic crises are, in other words, inherently politically destabilizing, and that makes a sufficient response, at least in a democracy, nearly impossible.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.