Thursday, July 16, 2009

More Stimulus Nonsense

This week I wrote that, to an order of magnitude, the $787 billion spent on the first stimulus amounts to a quarter million dollars per job promised. Econbrowser now claims that this comparison is invalid because, supposedly, it confuses stocks and flows.

Suppose that the government passed a law that would spend $1 billion to build 1000 2 bedroom houses in the suburbs. According to Econbrowser, the $1 billion is a flow and the 1000 is stock, so we should not compare them. I say that we have a good sense of what a 2 bedroom house is worth, and paying $1 million each is drastically overpaying. I don't care how long the house lasts!

The same goes for judging the value of "job creation." A quarter million (or a million -- that's a more realistic yet still charitable estimate of what the stimulus bill does in terms of job creation) dollars per job is too much to pay for the average job -- I don't care how long it lasts. Let's not forget that jobs require effort and time at work, and those have opportunity costs!

Econbrowser does offer another interesting comparison -- the amount the stimulus bill paid per job year created. The Administration claims it is creating or saving 6.8 million job years -- ie, that each person who got one of those jobs it created (or had one of those jobs it saved) would otherwise have been unemployed another two years. We'll break down the absurdity of that another time, but taking them literally means each job year cost over $100,000.

I rest my case.


Melquiades said...
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Melquiades said...

Casey I only hope you see how ludicrously unrelated your own example is, and how terribly innumerate it reveals you to be.

The fact that a professor like yourself cannot even get stocks and flows correct should embarras you horribly, personally I would vote to revoke whatever tenure you might posses on such a rookie mistake but I am probably not as forgiving as others, lucky you.

Your little monkey-math basically assumes the jobs are created at once and last for one salaried year. However if the job persists longer, like two years, even you can hopefully see what putting a line with a two below it underneath the jobs figure expands the benefit of the stimulus, "down" to $170k per salaried year (this is a flow Casey, see? Now do you finally get it?) just as the gentleman over at EB said.

Sorry Professor, I give your shoddy monkey-math a failing grade. Maybe you should sit in on an Econ lecture so you can fill this gaping void in your sad "expertise."