|Lecture handout: Fiscal policy*
|Case: “The Obama Stimulus” by Pierre Yared, Columbia CaseWorks, January 3rd 2014 (link)|
For some documentaries on the Obama stimulus, see:
- Video: Part 1: The First 100 Days of “Inside Obama’s White House” BBC2 (iPlayer)
- Video: Hank Paulson: What I Could Have Done Differently (US Netflix)
Keynesian approaches to aggregate demand management became popular because they were seen to have explained the problem of the Great Depression. My video on the Great Depression explores some of the history, and also have a video looking at The Financial Crisis of 2008-09. The big debate between Keynesian and Hayekian economics was popularised by Russ Roberts and John Papola in the rap battles Fear the Boom and Bust and Fight of the Century.
A practical example of the empirical claims of the signal extraction problem are mentioned in this letter sent to Sequoia founders and CEOs: “In downturns, revenue and cash levels always fall faster than expenses”.
Here’s the official website of the Williamson Tunnels and for more on Chinese “ghost towns” you can watch China’s Empty City, or read this short World Bank blog post on the Rise of the Chinese Ghost Town. The photo of manual labourers in North Korea scrubbing the road comes from this article, and my grad school buddy Curtis Melvin created North Korea Economy Watch.
Despite what I say in the lecture… not all dog rescues are disasters….
Some podcast episodes that I particularly recommend:
- Audio: “Donald Kohn on Fed policy from the 1970s to today” Macro Musings (from 33:00 – 43:08)
- Audio: “Robert Hall on Recession, Stagnation, and Monetary Policy” Econ Talk (from 0:00-7:19
- Explain what Hall means by “automatic stabilisers”
- What does Hall claim is the main reason for the discretionary fiscal policy of 2009 to have had a weak impact? States spent the money
- Does Hall believe that the US economy had a fiscal stimulus in 2009? No – he claims that since the government as a whole didn’t increase spending it wasn’t a stimulus.
- Audio: “Robert Hall on Recession, Stagnation, and Monetary Policy” Econ Talk (from 49:51-56:23)
- What’s the conventional definition of a recession?
- How does the NBER officially define recessions?
The content on policymakers feeling pressurized to “do something” is an element of crisis management more generally. An interesting example of the types of trade off that policymakers face is BBC Radio 4’s ‘Discussion Time: Coronavirus‘. Even though it relates to an epidemiology situation, it is relevant for any PR situation. Policymakers face a balance between maintaining public confidence, being seen to be providing a quick and clear response, without inciting a general panic. This relies on having good frameworks and tools that relate to the specific situation (the Radio 4 panel explain how important expert forecasts of the spread of foot and mouth disease were, in a recession economic impact studies play a critical role); but also an ability to manage public expectations. The goal of successful crisis management is to balance these things without introducing new uncertainties.
Suggested reading: ‘The case for cuts was a lie. Why does Britain still believe it? The austerity delusion‘ by Paul Krugman, The Guardian, April 29th 2015
This page ties into Chapter 9 of Economics: A Complete Guide for Business
|Learning Objectives: Assess the efficacy of fiscal stimulus and aggregate demand management
Focus on diversity: Christina Romer was the Chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors during the stimulus. You can learn more about her here.