Latest Data Continue To Show Little Impact of Government Stimulus on GDP

The 3.2 percent growth rate of real GDP in the first quarter (released by BEA yesterday) confirms that the recovery is looking more U-shaped than V-shaped. But it also provides further evidence that the stimulus package of 2009 has had a small contribution to the recovery. Most of the recovery has been due to investment—including inventory investment, which was positive in the first quarter after declining for all of last year—and has little to do with discretionary stimulus packages. The two charts show the percentage contribution of investment and government purchases to real GDP growth in the first quarter and in the preceding quarters since 2007. The charts clearly indicate that the changes in real GDP growth have been mostly due to changes in investment and little to changes in government purchases. In fact, government purchases have been a drag (a negative contribution to real GDP growth) in the fourth quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2010. I also include similar charts for the other two components of GDP, consumption and net exports. The government purchases chart looks very similar if you exclude defense spending, as I have in previous posts on this subject.

In response to these previous posts, some have argued that government spending might have declined by a larger amount without the stimulus because the stimulus package prevented state and local government from cutting spending. More research is needed to determine what would have happened in the counterfactual of “no discretionary stimulus,” but in the meantime these data at the least suggest that the simple Keynesian model frequently taught to beginning students—in which government spending shifts up the aggregate spending line to counteract an investment-induced downward shift in that line—needs to be reworked.

About John B. Taylor 117 Articles

Affiliation: Stanford University

John B. Taylor is the Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics at Stanford University and the Bowen H. and Janice Arthur McCoy Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He formerly served as the director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where he is now a senior fellow, and he was founding director of Stanford's Introductory Economics Center.

Taylor’s academic fields of expertise are macroeconomics, monetary economics, and international economics. He is known for his research on the foundations of modern monetary theory and policy, which has been applied by central banks and financial market analysts around the world. He has an active interest in public policy. Taylor is currently a member of the California Governor's Council of Economic Advisors, where he also previously served from 1996 to 1998. In the past, he served as senior economist on the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1976 to 1977, as a member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1989 to 1991. He was also a member of the Congressional Budget Office's Panel of Economic Advisers from 1995 to 2001.

For four years from 2001 to 2005, Taylor served as Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs where he was responsible for U.S. policies in international finance, which includes currency markets, trade in financial services, foreign investment, international debt and development, and oversight of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He was also responsible for coordinating financial policy with the G-7 countries, was chair of the working party on international macroeconomics at the OECD, and was a member of the Board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. His book Global Financial Warriors: The Untold Story of International Finance in the Post-9/11 World chronicles his years as head of the international division at Treasury.

Taylor was awarded the Alexander Hamilton Award for his overall leadership in international finance at the U.S. Treasury. He was also awarded the Treasury Distinguished Service Award for designing and implementing the currency reforms in Iraq, and the Medal of the Republic of Uruguay for his work in resolving the 2002 financial crisis. In 2005, he was awarded the George P. Shultz Distinguished Public Service Award. Taylor has also won many teaching awards; he was awarded the Hoagland Prize for excellence in undergraduate teaching and the Rhodes Prize for his high teaching ratings in Stanford's introductory economics course. He also received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his research, and he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society; he formerly served as vice president of the American Economic Association.

Before joining the Stanford faculty in 1984, Taylor held positions as professor of economics at Princeton University and Columbia University. Taylor received a B.A. in economics summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1968 and a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University in 1973.

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1 Comment on Latest Data Continue To Show Little Impact of Government Stimulus on GDP

  1. Are you not confusing the fact the State and Local governments have cut spending while the Feds (via Stimulus) countered this potential HUGE drag on GDP. If the FEDS did not spend (or worse, cut spending like the State/Local gov’t have) no telling what kind of drag gov’t spending could have been…

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