We'd End the Recession Sooner If We Invaded Germany Again

Sharron Angle is the Republican nominee for senator in the state of Nevada, and not an economist. This exchange via Matt Yglesias:

Q. Did Keynesian economics, the stimulus spending, work in the Depression of the '30s?

A. No. And I think history has really proven that to be true. Most economists agree that the thing that really worked, which is a sad commentary, is the war.

Two points to make here. Most people seem to be making the obvious argument that spending a gazillion dollars on tanks and guns and troops is stimulus spending. World War II was like the Recovery Act, except instead of putting the states' Medicaid burden on our shoulders, we put a two-theater, three-continent war campaign on our shoulders. Angle's implicitly making the case for putting 18 million Americans to work building tanks and drowning them in the Atlantic. Matt does a good job finishing the point.

But Angle's statement can't be dismissed as a technical glitch. It epitomizes public opinion. The administration has tried to make the only argument it can make: that, in a stimulus-less world we cannot see, things would have been worse. They're almost certainly right. But it's not selling. Fewer than a third of Americans think the stimulus "worked," according to some polls, and 60 percent of the public wants the government to do something about joblessness. With 17 percent broad unemployment, angry Americans, and their angry candidates, aren't making sense, and we can't reasonably expect them to come around. That's the sad commentary.