I agree with pretty much everything in Barack Obama’s big speech today about his stimulus plan. And not (just) because I’m some kind of lefty: Alex Tabarrok feels much the same way, as does Evan Newmark. It’s necessarily vague, but it points in all the right directions. So I wonder why Obama felt compelled to quantify this:
That work begins with this plan – a plan I am confident will save or create at least three million jobs over the next few years.
It doesn’t really mean anything: "next few years" is vague enough to start with, but if you’re including jobs "saved" rather than created, then there’s no way of even counting, since there’s no way of knowing how many jobs would be lost had the plan not been implemented.
That said, I think the emphasis on jobs is an eminently sensible one, and I hope to have some numbers later backing up my assertion that the best bang for your buck, if you’re wanting to create jobs, is to spend money in the arts. There was nothing about the arts in Obama’s speech, but I still hold out hope. It’s hard to show that arts spending "works" in the kind of ROI sense that’s implied in Obama’s speech, since many of the returns on arts spending are non-financial. But that doesn’t make them any less important.