Americans rejoice! GDP grew by 3.5% in the third quarter and the recession is over.
It’s time to drink champagne, dance in the streets, and have a group hug with Nancy Pelosi and Ben Bernanke. But whatever you do, don’t ask yourself why the recession has ended. The answer might ruin the party.
The recession is over only because Washington decided it should be. With billions in fresh government spending, it was only a matter of time before GDP posted some growth.
It’s too bad all that government spending is borrowed money. Someday, we’ll actually have to pay off this year’s $1.4 trillion deficit.
Of course, all of the president’s Keynesian men will argue that everything is working to plan — the stimulus is stimulating. But it’s hard not to see today’s GDP bounce as a bit of a sham.
Just check out where the economy grew. Almost half — or 1.7% of the pickup in GDP growth came from “motor vehicle output.” That’s the summer’s $3 billion cash-for-clunkers program doing its thing. But at what cost?
Edmunds.com just released some compelling analysis on cash-for-clunkers. Apparently, it cost the U.S. taxpayer about $24,000 per vehicle sold. Edmunds gets that number by dividing the $3 billion by the 125,000 additional car sales generated by the program. The methodology makes sense to me, but click here and decide for yourself...
Consider another one of Washington’s smashing successes: the $8,000 credit for first-time home buyers. For the third quarter, “real residential fixed investment” — also known as “homebuilding” — jumped 23.4%. That boosted GDP by another 0.5%. Do you feel like hugging Harry Reid now?
But we’re not seeing the real cost of the homebuyer tax credit. This is very expensive stuff. The Calculated Risk blog figures the home-buyer credit costs the taxpayer $43,000 per incremental home sale. Goldman Sachs ran its own numbers, reckoning that each incremental home sale cost the taxpayer an astounding $80,000. Again, the methodology seems right to me, but decide for yourself.
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