Saving and Creating

Here’s the latest from the White House: the 2009 stimulus package has “saved or created between 2.5 and 3.6 million jobs as of the second quarter of 2010.” You can see this in handy chart form on the right.

Now, obviously you can argue with the CEA’s analysis here. Maybe their baseline counterfactual is bogus. Maybe their GDP calculations are off. Whatever. For the most part, though, the actual complaint seems to be with their “saved or created” formulation.

As a partisan tool for tea party gatherings, I get why someone would mock this. But I’ve seen plenty of more mainstream types mock it too. Why? Isn’t this the obvious formulation you’d use if you were trying to calculate the effect of some economic policy or other? If you give the state of Florida some money and they use it to prevent a bunch of cops and teachers from being laid off, doesn’t that do as much for the employment rate as going ahead with the layoffs and then using the money to hire a bunch of new park rangers? Is there some reason, aside from crude partisanship or Maureen Dowd-esque puerility,1 for anyone to have a problem with this?

1Is that a word? Well, it should be.

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