Larry Summers uses Google search numbers in stimulus defense

Posted on July 18, 2009


google dollar sign logo

Larry Summers, Obama’s top economic adviser, cited an odd statistic on Friday as proof that the stimulus was working. Summer pointed to Google search numbers showing that searches for the term “economic depression” were down to normal levels over a four-fold increase in the beginning of the year. Summers thinks that this somehow translates into people being less concerned about the economy, meaning a recovery was on the way.

Honestly, it’s about the weakest argument you can make. So now Google is a leading indicator of economic fortunes? If that’s the case, I’d be curious to see what the search statistics were in October of 2008 before the stock market meltdown. I’m guessing “Barack Obama”, “John McCain” and “Britney Spears” were among the top searches, which as anyone can see indicates a downturn in the financial markets. And as it happens, Hot Air notes that searches for “how to find a job”  are up 50% above normal and that searches for “economic depression” are actually spiking. So much for the prescient power of the search engine.

The logic is necessarily getting more tortured as the Obama administration tries to sell that everything’s going according to plan. So the plan was to not spend all the money right away, but back-end in time for the 2010 elections? So the plan was to not spend the money on infrastructure and jobs programs, but on government spending programs not tied to economic growth? I wasn’t a fan of the money being spent in the first place, but I might have been a bit more forgiving if the previous two questions had gone the other way.

As it stands, though, it’s becoming obvious that the stimulus didn’t do a damn thing. We’re already far over what Obama claimed unemployment would be if we didn’t pass the stimulus. And, sorry, it’s a poor excuse to claim that the economy you “inherited” must have just been worse than we thought. The truth is that we’ve seen no positive signs at all, indicators that you would find even if the economy was worse than estimated. And trying to now claim the stimulus (which was termed that because it was billed to economically stimulate) wasn’t designed for recovery in the first place is the height of disingenuousness. After all, you named the stimulus website, didn’t you?

I’ll be as happy as anyone else when the economy finally turns around. But the recovery will be not be due to some half-baked spending bill that politicians concocted and rammed through without reading – it will be from the hard work and determination of the American worker.

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