The Atlantic’s Conor Clarke has an interesting interview with Robert Barro. On Paul Krugman:
Q. Do you read Paul Krugman’s blog?
A. Just when he writes nasty individual comments that people forward.
Q. Oh, well he wrote a series of posts saying he thought the World War II spending evidence was not good, for a variety of reasons, but I guess…
A. He said elsewhere that it was good and that it was what got us out of the depression. He just says whatever is convenient for his political argument. He doesn’t behave like an economist. And the guy has never done any work in Keynesian macroeconomics, which I actually did. He has never even done any work on that. His work is in trade stuff. He did excellent work, but it has nothing to do with what he’s writing about.
On the stimulus bill:
Q. The last thing is just about the stimulus bills as it stands. Two things here. One thing is what do you think about the ratio of spending to tax relief in the bill. And the second is, if you judge it by Larry Summers standard — that stimulus be temporary, timely and targeted — does it clear the bar?
A. This is probably the worst bill that has been put forward since the 1930s. I don’t know what to say. I mean it’s wasting a tremendous amount of money. It has some simplistic theory that I don’t think will work, so I don’t think the expenditure stuff is going to have the intended effect. I don’t think it will expand the economy. And the tax cutting isn’t really geared toward incentives. It’s not really geared to lowering tax rates; it’s more along the lines of throwing money at people. On both sides I think it’s garbage. So in terms of balance between the two it doesn’t really matter that much.
On where people got the idea that government spending stimulates the economy:
Q. Are there any conditions under which you might think spending could have a positive effect on output or is it always going to be the case that as a relative matter that tax cuts are going to be better?
A. Tax cuts are bound to be better. I think the best evidence for expanding GDP comes from the temporary military spending that usually accompanies wars — wars that don’t destroy a lot of stuff, at least in the US experience. Even there I don’t think it’s one for one, so if you don’t value the war itself it’s not a good idea. You know, attacking Iran is a shovel-ready project. But I wouldn’t recommend it.
There’s much more, too, but none of it will help you feel any better about this stimulus trainwreck. Incidentally, Robert Barro is world’s the third-most influential economist, according to the RePEc/IDEAS measure.