Wednesday, December 30, 2009


This is an older article by Marshall Auerback, but one of the best about what was done by FDR, and what should now be done.

But consider the historic precedents. In the words of Professor Paul Davidson:

Let us look at a historical example where if this type of “what will cost to the tax payer and/or the economy?” question were asked, one of the most desirable government policies would never have been undertaken. At the Bretton Woods conference it was recognized that the European nations would need significant aid to help rebuild their economies after the war. Keynes estimated that the need would be between $12 and $15 billion. U.S. representative Harry Dexter White indicated that Congress could not ask the taxpayers to provide more than $3 billion. Accordingly, the Keynes Plan was defeated at Bretton Woods, and the Dexter White proposals were adopted:

Suppose that in 1946 it was recommended that U.S. give a gift of $13 billion dollars over four years to various European countries to help them rebuild their war-ravaged economies (in 1940s current dollars, this sum would be well over $150 billion in 2007 dollars). Obviously if Dexter White was correct, the Congress would never have approved the Marshall Plan. Since the Marshall Plan did not reveal in advance that it would provide foreign governments $13 billion over a period of four years, Congress approved the Marshall Pan. The Marshall Plan gave foreign nations approximately two percent of the United States’ GDP each year for four years. Was the Marshall Plan costly to U.S. taxpayers and the U.S. economy?

The statistics indicate that, during the Marshall Plan years, for the first time in history the U.S. did not experience a serious economic slowdown immediately after a war. And this despite the fact that federal government expenditures on goods and services declined by approximately 57 percent between 1945 and 1946. Furthermore, four years after World War II, federal government expenditure was still approximately half of what it had been in 1945.

When the U.S. emerged from World War II, the federal debt was more than 100 percent of the GDP. Accordingly, there was great political pressure to reign in federal government spending to make sure that the federal debt did not grow substantially. Clearly, then, it was not “Keynesian” deficit spending that kept the U.S. out of recession in the immediate post-World War II years.

What was the cost of the Marshall Plan to the U.S. economy and the U.S. taxpayer? In 1946, the GDP per capita was 25 percent higher than it had been in the last peace years before the War. GDP per capita continued to grow during the Marshall Plan years. Despite giving away two percent of U.S. GDP, American residents (and taxpayers) experienced a higher standard of living each year. – (Paul Davidson, “How to Solve the US Housing Problem and Avoid a Recession: A Revived HOLC and RTC” - Schwartz Center For Economic Policy Analysis: Policy Note, January 2008)

1 comment:

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