Obama New Deal, phase 1

Feb. 17 update – The final stimulus bill allocates $ 790.6 bn:  the CBO estimates tax cuts will amount to $ 288.5 bn and public expenditures about $ 500 bn (wsj) for a total est. cost of $ 787 bn. Today the President signed the bill and wrote us

enzo fabio —

Today, I signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law.
This is a historic step — the first of many as we work together to climb out of this crisis — and I want to thank you for your resolve and your support. (…)
I’ve assigned a team of managers to oversee the implementation of the recovery act. We are committed to making sure no dollar is wasted. But accountability begins with you.
That’s why my administration has created Recovery.gov, a new website where citizens can track every dollar spent and every job created. We’ll invite you and your neighbors to weigh in with comments and questions.
Our progress will also be measured by the tens of thousands of personal stories submitted by people who are struggling to make ends meet. If you haven’t already, you can read stories from families all across the country:


Your stories are the heart of this recovery plan, and that’s what I’ll focus on every day as President. With your continued support, we’ll emerge a stronger and more prosperous nation.

Thank you,
President Barack Obama

On the eve of the 200-Charles Darwin Day, the US House and the Senate have finally agreed on the mega-stimulus package, which President Obama might already sign next Monday,  February the 15th, i.e. 25 days after entering the White House (1/4 of the early 100 days, when the Beauty versus the Beast – Apocalypse Now – fight will B decided upon in the short term).

Mainstream economists, with whom this time we are tempted to almost agree once (but we have other priorities, since it is not OUR problem to save Capitalisms, but their victims), converge with the great, sublime Paul Samuelson (self-defining himself a Centre-Left, moderate Keynesian), by saying that some moderation and “watering down” (in the Congress revision) of Adm. Obama’s proposals is a first best, since  -e.g. – a demand – only perspective  is balanced with less unilateral supply-side  considerations as well (on this, our friend Michele Boldrin is writing quite important and interesting, fresh things on NfA – Noise from America blog, since early this year; we will discuss them, here and on NfA at length, soon).

Let us say that this is the state-of-the-art in academic Political Economy, and it is symbiotic with what happened in these hard Congressional fights about the final compromise, during the last weeks. One day, just symbolically Sen. Mc Cain presented a  motion to cut the stimulus to half. It comes out with a great momentum, a variety of tools and targets (see the Summary below).

A HISTORIC BILL, starting the Obama New Deal long series, in the next few years.



Congress Makes a Deal


Congress Strikes $789 Billion Stimulus Deal

Historic Bill Would Spur Road Building, Give Businesses Tax Breaks, Expand Broadband Access; Final Passage Expected Soon

wsj summary table:

Focal Points of Stimulus Package

Key goals and what indicators to use to gauge success.

Business confidence
Steps: Tax breaks for businesses, appropriations.
Measurement of success: Stock market results and management surveys.

Low income/unemployment aid
Steps: Benefit checks, foodstamp increases, health insurance assistance, Medicaid.
Measurement: Benefit rates

Consumer spending
Steps: Tax breaks to workers.
Measurement: Retail spending, consumer-confidence surveys.

Job creation
Steps: Infrastructure spending, aid to states.
Measurement: Unemployment.

Economic Growth
Steps: Spending, tax breaks.
Measurement: GDP.

Please also note that:

The stimulus accord is a major win for the high-tech industry, which will receive billions of dollars in subsidies to expand broadband access to rural and other underserved areas and a huge infusion of funds to computerize health-care records.

The latter is a very important point, since it marks much more, than just Silicon Valley getting repaid for the EARLY support to “Sen. Nobody” (see on this Giuliano da Empoli 2008, already a classic and comprehensive book on Obama, in Italian; and our various, often updated  static pages on Obamology in http://arcapedia.wordpress.com/).

On the other hand, it is a strong counter-tendency, a counter-factual to the MARKET SELECTION PARADIGM – e.g., theorised in Italy by the no.1 telecom expert, prof. Enzo Pontarollo.  He argues that it is not so bad that the Schumpeterian effect (sometimes called “The Invisible Foot”) and the credit crunch crisis SELECT among very expensive digital highway plans, and allocate credit only to the more rentable ones, where effective demand will repay faster, at least a part of the infrastructure investment.

This is such a complex, multi-dimensional issue. Let us just say  this, as a complement and further qualification to the important, and  theoretically well-rooted Prof. Pontarollo’s argument.

Japan (as far as I know,  the main great and still powerful State doing this) usually doesn’t bother much about “the digital market” plans selection – perhaps also because Japan’s regional economies have been levelled-up during the last half century, and suffer much more from congestion than regional, or rural\urban imbalances. They just shape and anticipate effective market demand years, or even a decade before, laying down  futuristic cooperative-public digital highways (namely in the New Generation Networks, lately).

But if the Nippon State is  now on the defensive, such programs will be delayed for many years, and this anticipatory effect will be lost. In a strong “neo- Keynesian & neo- Schumpeterian” mixed, eclectic and PRAGMATIST (“Nudge“) approach, the Obama’s New Deal starts now doing what Japan has problems to keep up to. This is another Invisible Foot effect: not across regions but across Nations: the US just elected Obama, while the Nippon political system is in search of a “2nd Republic” trajectory since 20 years ago, with no viable, longterm solution yet.

They desperately need either a Berlusconisan, or an Obamasan.

This stimulus Bull hitech component, has little to do with FDR, and we are happy about that: since you know (or at least, regular blog readers do) that we fully agree from the left with the “right” critique to FDR  –  stemming from the careful Amity Shlaes historic reconstruction of what really happened during THAT New Deal 8o years ago (on this precise point, we take a small bit of distance, a degree of freedom  from Obama’s public image and self-representation). In any case, ce n’est qu’un debut.


doctor doom’s 2009

Nouriel Roubini has now a weekly column on Forbes, where some synthesis is made of the much richer rge material (unique, very deep and informative news “clusters”; regular blogs or interventions by some of the best macroeconomists). This is an invitation to read regularly, as an amateur, both “Doctor Doom” Forbes column, and the free sections of rge-monitor.com (while a professional economist is obliged to subscribe to rge):

Doctor Doom

A Global Breakdown Of The Recession In 2009

Nouriel Roubini, 01.15.09, 12:01 AM EST

Forecasting pain, from the U.S. to Australia.


With the industrial world already in outright recession and the emerging world navigating toward a hard landing (growth well below potential), I expect global growth to be flat (around -0.5%) in 2009.

This will be the worst global recession in decades as the fallout of the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression took a toll first on the U.S. and then–via a variety of channels–on the rest of the global economy.

Here is a global breakdown of my forecast.

The United States economy is only halfway through a recession that started in December 2007 and will be the longest and most severe in the post-war period. U.S. gross domestic product will continue to contract throughout all of 2009 for a cumulative output loss of 5%.

One last look at 2008 will reveal a very weak fourth quarter with GDP growth contracting about -6% in the wake of a sharp fall in personal consumption and private domestic investment.

I see the real GDP growth contraction playing out through the year as follows: first quarter 2009: -5%; second quarter 2009: -4%; third quarter 2009: -2.5%; fourth quarter 2009: -1%–adding up to a yearly real GDP growth of -3.4% for the U.S. in 2009.

This forecast is much worse than the current consensus forecast seeing a growth recovery in the second half of 2009; I also predict significantly weak growth recovery–well below potential–in 2010. (…)

The latest cyclical upswing in the Eurozone was largely driven by a temporary but powerful boost to domestic investment from disappearing risk premia in the aftermath of the adoption of the single currency and by external demand from a buoyant world economy.

Both demand sources fizzled out by the second half of 2008, leaving the Eurozone as a whole and its largest members exposed to diverging deleveraging patterns in the face of suboptimal EMU-wide automatic fiscal stabilizer mechanisms.

The latest record-low readings of leading and sentiment indicators point to a severe recession ahead in 2009 that shapes up to be worse than the 1992-93 crisis. For the Eurozone, I expect a below-consensus contraction in real GDP of around -2.5% (…)

We believe China will experience a hard landing in 2009, with growth unlikely to exceed 5%, a sharp slowdown from the 10% average of the last five years. The reversal of capital flows and high credit cost will pull down India‘s growth significantly, to around 5% in 2009 from an estimated 6% in 2008.


This graph, now in the front page of the Greenberg geo-eco think thank of the CFR (where we always read two of our favourite blogs: Follow the money by the International Economics “Sherlock Holmes” Brad Setser (*); and the delightful political incorrectness of  Amity Shlaes’ Forgotten man: healthy antidotes to FDR or BO’s santifications), is quite informative.

RAQ (Rarely Asked Q.) Did u know, before having looked at it, that the 2nd NewEconomy bubbbbbble (2003-07)  was much more  pervasive cross-country, than the so much advertised 1st one (1994-2001)?


(*) We are much more than friends, in brotherhood from decades with Otaviano Canuto, himself an rge blogger, Catou and all their beautiful family. Nonetheless, our esteem of Otaviano as an economist made a big jump upward a few weeks ago, when we discovered, in an exchange of comments on a recent post, he had … something to teach to Brad. Before, we believed anything alike impossible, i.e. beyond human limits.