The Washington Post reports:
Facing an increasingly ominous economic outlook, President-elect Barack Obama and other Democrats are rapidly ratcheting up plans for a massive fiscal stimulus program that could total as much as $700 billion over the next two years....Obama has set a goal of creating or preserving 2.5 million jobs by 2011.Dividing one number by the other, that works out to $280,000 per job.
What is going on here? Logically, it must be one of three possibilities:
1. The fiscal stimulus is going to be much smaller than is being reported.
2. The new administration is setting a low bar for itself when it comes to job creation.
3. The Obama team believes in very small fiscal policy multipliers.
Let me amplify the last point with a rough back-of-the-envelope calculation. The average weekly earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers is about $600, or about $60,000 over a two-year period. Granted, labor income is only about two-thirds of national income, and we have to add a few supervisors into the mix. So let's say each job created means $100,000 of extra national income. If we are generating $100,000 of income with $280,000 of government spending, the multiplier is only 100/280, or 0.36. By contrast, traditional Keynesian models suggest a multiplier closer to 2.0.