Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Faster, Johnny! Spend faster! 

One talk here was by the fine Russian economist Lev Freinkman. In Armenia, when Russia sneezes, Armenia gets pneumonia. So there was a lot of focus on his thoughts, and he was more positive. But he made this point that the Putin-Medvedev stimulus has been slow to be spent. This seems a common refrain these days. So, because they will spend more in the second half of the year, Russia will get better, goes the thinking. As if expectations never matter at all.

So I had to smile at Michael Goldfarb this evening:

New York Times reporter Nelson Schwartz finds the French are doing a better job of spending stimulus money than their counterparts in Washington. It's a fascinating story of how bureaucrats who've perfected the art of government waste got an extra $34 billion to fritter away, but Schwartz focuses on the rather paltry $100 million devoted to restoring the even more extravagant state-funded projects of pre-revolutionary France. He also hints at some anecdotal evidence that the money is having an impact.

The Washington Post did a more thorough job on the details of the French stimulus back in January. It's a mix of infrastructure spending, cash payments, and tax write-offs. But at just $34 billion the French stimulus is small potatoes compared to the $787 billion Democrats plan to spend. So the French have been able to waste less money faster. And they're arrogant about it.

But the question is, is it more or less arrogant than an administration talking about doing it again?