'$800 billion mistake'?

Harvard economist Martin Feldstein was on the show Monday, and he touched off a vigorous response both from callers and in the online comments. Today, he published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post headlined "An $800 Billion Mistake" — laying out many of the same points he presented on the show.

Professor Feldstein says he supports an economic stimulus effort but has real worries about the structure of the president's $820 billion package. Enough worries, he writes in the Post, that he doesn’t want to see it rushed through: “It is worth taking the time to get it right.” Of course, the House just passed the bill.

Here’s what Feldstein told Tom on Monday:

It just doesn’t strike me as a lot of bang for the buck in these programs. They’ve had to do this quickly. I’ve been an advocate of doing something quickly. But I’m disappointed that they’ve done so little thinking about the incentive effects of these programs.

And he presented his scenario for the end result:

The danger is that we’re going to end up with a trillion dollars added to the national debt over two years, and we’re not going to be able to point to that and say it created enough extra demand, enough in the way of employment.

Feldstein is a legendary conservative economist. Many out there disagree with him on these points, especially liberals. Here’s the New York Times editorial today praising most aspects of the stimulus effort. And commentator E.J. Dionne has a different take in today's Post, saying that progressives themselves are not of one mind on the stimulus.

Tom's interview with Feldstein is well worth listening to in full.


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