The Political Dogma:
Government social “reinvestment” programs benefit the poor at the expense of the wealthy.
The Political Reality, as instantiated by Director’s Law:
Public program expenditures primarily benefit the upward rising middle classs at the expense of the wealthy AND the poor.
From a microeconomic perspective, there is some genuine disruption for affected federal bureaucrats, even if they eventually will get full – and lavish – compensation for their involuntary vacations. And some federal contractors are being hit as well.
There’s also a debate about the macroeconomic impact, with some making the Keynesian argument that government spending is somehow a stimulant for the economy.
In this interview, I tried to make a more nuanced point, explaining that we should focus more on gross domestic income (GDI), which measures how we earn our national income, rather than gross domestic product (GDP), which measures how we allocate national income.
I’m not sure I got my point across effectively in a 30-second sound bite, but it’s a point worth making since people who understand GDI are much less susceptible to the Keynesian perpetual-motion-machine argument.
But enough from me.
Harold Furchtgott-Roth, in a column for the Wall Street Journal, analyzes the potential macroeconomic consequences of the shutdown.
Does the U.S. government shutdown endanger economic growth? It has led to missed paychecks… Yet these employees represent approximately 0.5% of all American workers… The effect of the furloughs on gross domestic product is likely small. …U.S. GDP is more than $20 trillion annually, or approximately $55 billion daily. The daily compensation of furloughed federal workers is about $52.5 million, or less than 0.1% of GDP.
“Governments should copy Switzerland and impose a spending cap. I explained this system in a column for the Wall Street Journal back in 2012.”
Moreover, I will point out that higher taxes most likely will simply trigger and enable additional spending. And I will warn that tax increases will undermine economic performance.
Regarding that last point, three professors, led by Alberto Alesina at Harvard, have unveiled some new research looking at the economic impact of expenditure-based austerity compared to tax-based austerity.