Impertinent Questions: How Much Stimulus Do We Need?

You know what America really needs?  More stimulus spending!  We’ve got double-digit unemployment and a moribund economy after President Obama’s first trillion-dollar stimulus bill.  Obviously we need more.

How much more?  The President was asking for another $50 billion back in September.  On the wilder shores of the storm-tossed deficit sea, Paul Krugman has been heard to mutter something about doubling or tripling the trillion we’ve already spent.  He thinks the first stimulus was far too small, because it was based on ridiculously inadequate projections made by people like… Paul Krugman.

Tales abound of “stimulus jobs” created at a cost of millions per job.  The average cost nationwide has been computed at $246,436 per job.  By some estimates, we’ve lost over 11 million jobs since the recession began in 2007.  At two hundred grand a pop, we’ll need roughly $2,200,000,000,000 in stimulus spending to recover them all.  It might be time to think about invading Alpha Centauri to get the money.  Hopefully their soldiers will wear solid gold armor, and use guns that shoot diamonds.

The return on investment from these massive stimulus bills is pitiful.  We could have generated more economic activity by holding a trillion-dollar lottery.  Why is stimulus spending so wasteful?  Because it pushes a huge pile of money where it doesn’t want to go.

A great deal of the stimulus money was simply looted by the government, to shore up bloated public sector payrolls.  More was thrown into needless infrastructure projects, which would have been completed long ago, if they could have justified their cost.  The opportunity cost of such economic meddling is huge.  All the places where that trillion dollars of cash and laborwanted to go are left barren.  The swelling deficit adds to economic anxieties, which prevent businessmen from expanding their operations and creating jobs the natural, healthy way.

The State cannot make its people rich by simply printing a lot of dollar bills, and handing a fortune to each deserving citizen.  It cannot generate lasting economic activity by spending a lot of money on useless junk.  It cannot legislate contentment by imposing a $20 per hour minimum wage.  By pulling time and money out of the private sector, it inevitably reduces the total value of the economy.  A billion dollars spent by a million different people produces more healthy economic activity than a billion dollars in the hands of a politician.  By squeezing the choices of those million citizens out of the money, it cannot help but reduce its value.  The choices were always the most valuable treasure.

Prosperity flows from the exchange between producers and consumers.  Money produces less prosperity when it is assigned rather than spent. Giant stimulus plans are just another example of the State telling people what to do.  Our future will be richer if we let them do what they want to do.  No amount of government spending can buy prosperity.  It must beearned.

The first step on the road to poverty comes when the State interferes with the glorious union of free people who need each other.

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