Peak Stimulus

Market prices should reflect underlying demand and supply. As in a vegetable stand, the prices come from the buying and selling of people in the market.

But with all the artificial stimulus money floating around, here and abroad, you can never be sure of what you see. Is this a real recovery or is it an artificially ripened tomato, and hence an imposter? When the stimulus money stops flowing, will the recession get worse?

CNN’s bailout tracker reports that U.S. government stimulus has totaled $2.8 trillion so far this year, with another $8.2 trillion in commitments. Most of this money has gone to the financial sector. Some of it has gone to infrastructure projects and to consumers (“cash for clunkers,” for example).

That is a lot of money. It is hard to say how all of this spending has artificially boosted economic activity in some sectors of the economy. It is obvious that such spending cannot continue indefinitely.

Take a look at this next chart, which shows you how the stimulus spending reaches a peak sometime in early 2010 at $57 billion and then takes a dive.


Of course, the government can always decide to spend more. But as it is now, this is a pattern of spending we can expect to distort the various sectors it flows to. You can see also on the chart where the money goes, including that big red layer that goes toward highways and transportation.

We may yet see a surge in business activity as we get to 2010. But after that, we’ll see if this seeming recovery in the making is real or manufactured by funny money.