It’s easy to forget amid all the political talk about “stimulus” that it’s an economic concept, not a political one.
So, from the view of one of the country’s leading economists, Mark Zandi of Moody’sEconomy.com, here is an estimate of what $1 of public investment returns to the economy. The graph below shows the change in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for each dollar invested by various federal actions.
As you can see, a dollar can return well over its value if invested well, and can return far less with other choices.
Mr. Zandi made that analysis in written testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Small Business in July 2008.
Interestingly from this graph, Mr. Zandi’s analysis is that the four categories of spending in this list of 13 items provide the biggest bang for the taxpayer’s buck. At the top of the chart, a temporary increase in Food Stamps returns $1.73 for each dollar invested; extending unemployment benefits returns $1.64; raising infrastructure spending returns $1.59, and general aid to state governments returns $1.36.
By contrast, tax-cutting returns far less, in some cases far less than the $1 cost to start out.
Economists generally agree that effective economic stimulus initiatives follow the “three T” principle: policies must be TIMELY, TARGETED and TEMPORARY. These are important principles to remember as Iowa’s leaders decide how to use the federal stimulus dollars provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signed recently by President Obama.