“Stimulus” Did Not Stimulate

IncomeAndConsumptionGraph2009-09-17.gif

Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A23) The nearby chart reviews income and consumption through July, the latest month this data is available for the U.S. economy as a whole.

Consider first the part of the chart pertaining to the spring of this year and observe that disposable personal income (DPI)–the total amount of income people have left to spend after they pay taxes and receive transfers from the government–jumped. The increase is due to the transfer and rebate payments in the 2009 stimulus package. However, as the chart also shows, there was no noticeable impact on personal consumption expenditures. Because the boost to income is temporary, at best only a very small fraction was consumed.
This is exactly what one would expect from “permanent income” or “life-cycle” theories of consumption, which argue that temporary changes in income have little effect on consumption. These theories were developed by Milton Friedman and Franco Modigliani 50 years ago, and have been empirically tested many times. They are much more accurate than simple Keynesian theories of consumption, so the lack of an impact should not be surprising.
. . .
Incoming data will reveal more in coming months, but the data available so far tell us that the government transfers and rebates have not stimulated consumption at all, and that the resilience of the private sector following the fall 2008 panic–not the fiscal stimulus program–deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the impressive growth improvement from the first to the second quarter. As the economic recovery takes hold, it is important to continue assessing the role played by the stimulus package and other factors. These assessments can be a valuable guide to future policy makers in designing effective policy responses to economic downturns.

For the full commentary, see:

JOHN F. COGAN, JOHN B. TAYLOR AND VOLKER WIELAND. “The Stimulus Didn’t Work; The data show government transfers and rebates have not increased consumption at all.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., SEPTEMBER 17, 2009): A23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.