National Accounts Show Stimulus Did Not Fuel GDP Growth

Along with the news that real GDP growth improved from -0.7 percent in the second quarter to 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released detailed National Income and Product Account tables yesterday, which received little comment in the press yesterday. These tables make it very clear that the $787 billion stimulus package had virtually nothing to do with the improvement.

Of the 4.2 percent improvement, more than half (2.36 percentage points) was due to firms cutting inventories at a less rapid pace, which has nothing to do with the stimulus. (For the details look at BEA’s Table 2 which shows that the contribution of inventory investment increased from -1.42 to .94 which equals 2.36.)

What about the other components of GDP? In particular what about government spending, which was supposed to be a big part of this stimulus? Government spending was a negative factor, subtracting 0.9 percentage points from the change in GDP growth.

Automobiles and parts contributed 1.15 percent for the quarterly improvement, but as yesterday’s release of monthly data shows that was an unsustainable temporary blip: up in August and down in September due to cash for clunckers. Here is how BEA put it yesterday:

“Purchases of motor vehicles and parts accounted for most of the decrease [in real consumption] in September and for most of the increase in August, reflecting the impact of the federal CARS program (popularly called “cash for clunkers”). The program, which provided a credit for customers who purchased a qualifying new, more fuel efficient auto or light truck, ended on August 24, 2009.”

And the latest consumption and income data in yesterday’s release reveal no noticeable impact of the temporary tax rebates and one time payments on consumption as John Cogan, Volker Wieland and I had earlier shown.

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.

Visit: John Taylor's Page, Blog

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