T Nation

Tracking the Stimulus


#1

Removed from the Alternative Marriages thread to keep the topics tidy:

More nonsense. You keep insisting I am "competely wrong" - well, tell me why. Post an argument. Hiding behind your irrelevantg cut and paste isn't an answer. I gave you the facts, you say I am wrong - well, you write an argument explaining why.

Till then, it's just partisan idiocy and smokescreen. I don't need your primer website, and posting it isn't a counterargument. Write one, or stop wasting my time and make the rest of us dumber with your attempts at trash talking.

No, it doesn't - it is exactly the argument being raised by economists crictizing the Recovery Act. The Recovery Act, if you remember, was sold to the public as an emergency bill to prevent unemployment and a shrinking GDP. It was sold on the idea of its short-term "necessity" - and it did exactly zilch in the short term, because it was doomed to fail from the outset.

Let's unpack why you are a fool. From your own link, a section you conveniently don't cut and paste:

[i]Risks of Large Stimulus Packages

Economists point to several possible risks posed by large stimulus packages and say lawmakers would be well advised to take these risks into consideration as they mould the current package. Most basically, there is a risk that the stimulus package won't work, or won't do enough, and that the economic crisis could continue despite massive government expenditures.[/i]

How bout that? From your own link, a section warning of the problems of a stimulus? Why, let's take a look:

Beyond that basic risk, experts say that there are several contingencies under which the stimulus plan could prove problematic, even if its works in many of its goals.

Well, I'll be. More:

[i]A January 2009 paper by two Brookings Institution fellows, one of whom, Jason Furman, was a senior economic adviser to Obama's campaign, argues stimulus spending should be:

-Timely, to guarantee that spending affects the economy when it is needed most, and to prevent against capital injections leading to overexpansion or rapid inflation.

-Targeted, to make sure each dollar spent creates the maximum possible bump in short-term gross domestic product (GDP), and to make sure that spending benefits the people most adversely affected by the economic slowdown.

-Temporary, to prevent unnecessary strain on a country's budget in the long run. [/i]

Now, as I live and breathe - here we have a senior economic adviser to Obama's campaign warning of reasons the proposed stimulus might be problematic, and if you can read, you'll note, curiously, that I have argued all three points raised by Obama's economic adviser:

-It has not been Timely, because it did not provide its spending when the economy needed it most, and because the outlawys are later in time, we risk overexpansion and inflationary pressures

-It has not been Targeted, as it did little to get money into bona fide shovel-ready projects, and as already proven, did not provide the short term boost to GDP

-It is not Temporary, since most of the money is spent after the economy doesn't need it and is is merely garden variety appropriations spending, and as such, puts an enormous strain on a country's budget in the long run

Now, dipshit, you will see that everything I have been arguing is no different than the menu of risks Obama's own economic advisor warned of. We face every single issue he raised - and the long-term "hangover" - interest rate pressures, inflationary presssures, overcrowding private investment - hasn't been worth it, because it did not generate the short-term benefits that are supposed to be the trade-off.

We were supposed to get "less worse" unemployment and GDP weakness - that was the pitched benefit, with the costs being all the things down the road being the costs. Now we have an enormous bill to pay and it purchased no short-term benefit.

The reason: it was poorly conceptualized and poorly constructed.

Now, of course, since pride and ego are such an issue - a little sad to behold - you'll bellow and bleat that somehow, some way, I just don't "get" the economics of it, all the while producing zero original arguments defending your position (whatever the hell it is) and yap, yap, yapping like a little terrier.

Rest assured, no chance of that being taken seriously by anyone.

Why would you ever assume you were right?


#2

I work with Government agencies who are tapping into these funds. They are pure Government self serving stimulus and nothing else. They are projects for city government and infrastructure. While it may help boost some spending in building materials purchases and contractors, it's TEMPORARY work for these folks.

Build a museum glorifying the Mob Bosses in Vegas. Yes it's true. A technology official in the City of Vegas told me about this as they are involved in providing the video and audio and network.....

Save some wildlife with stimulus money

Repave some roads

Build that pipeline or Dam.

Provide funding for SOCIAL SERVICES.

This does nothing to bosst an economy. It bumps it up a hill, only to fall back where it was.

I see little to no investment into private companies to fund R&D in technology or anything else unless it has to do with abortion or social service tools. Shovel ready pertains to construction on governmnert facilites and social services ONLY.

This is a Government Stimulus. It's exactly what it says......

A Government Stimulus .....in other words by the government ...for the Government

Yes, Government is stimulating itself plain and simple...expanding..

2010 is all I can say. It's all we can really do. And continue to remind your rep...not in e-mail or call... but a certified fucking letter. Then vote em out.


#3

Build that pipeline or Dam.

While I wholly agree with you Rockscar, this will never happen with this admin.


#4

Very enjoyable read.

Another problem is that states devastated by the depression usually didn't have 'shovel ready' projects ready to go, for the simple reason that destitutes rarely schedule big spending projects. A lot of whatever money there was went to more prosperous areas that actually HAD work scheduled.

If its prosperity they want, they should have simply halved the income tax for a year. Of course, except for Hollywood and other liberal enclaves, Obama voters pay little if any taxes.


#5

As an aside, this is a stimulus package I supported, offered by a Democrat:

http://www.idahostatesman.com/newsupdates/story/657284.html

This bill also had sunset provisions - the moment the economy saw demonstrable improvement (I forget the numbers, some percentage of positive growth versus backsliding), the stimulus payouts ended, thus instituting discipline on the spending when we didn't need it.

Now, I must be all hopped up on goofballs, but here it was that I not only had the same line of arguments against the Recovery Act presented by an economic advisor to Obama - a Democrat - but I also supported a smarter, more strategic stimulus package offered by Rep. Minnick - a Democrat.

"But...but....but....how am I supposed to engage in cartoonish partisan trash talk if you won't fit into my mind-numbingly stupid stereotype, Thunderbolt? Why do you insist on making me do something other than parrot the brainless party line and actually engage in meaningful debate??? That's, like, hard and stuff. I'll skip it - you are a right-wing right-wingie!!!"


#6

Most people do not understand that the only thing government can stimulate is more government and gigantic bubbles of inefficiency (malinvestment) in the private sector. You will not be able to keep track of this monstrous waste of inefficiency.

What's funnier is that your politicians are still trying to figure out how to steal more money from us because they realized they did not steal enough in the first place.

Hello hyperinflation!


#7

My god, you started another thread, now who has the crush?

Let's have a quick review: I was arguing your argument that the stimulus was "already a failure" was biased and sophomoric. Post after post you neglected to understand this and rambled on about how I "wasn't making an argument." Really, though, because of your blinders or because of your limited acumen you simply couldn't see it and repeated some strange strawman up and until before this thread.

We can start with the "already" part of your argument. You began this line of "argument" what? Two? Three months after the stimulus was passed? And you want to be taken seriously? To claim a program of this breadth with short and long-term objectives had failed before most of it had even begun is the height of partisan bickering. Of course, this was why so many voted against the bill, right? They put a bet down that the economy wouldn't fully recover and then they could politically blame the stimulus and not the policies of the last decade that brought us to this point. At least those with some sense of intellectual honesty, regardless of if they agree or disagree with the stimulus, have the good grace to admit that this takes a little more time (see AlisaV's post in the thread where this all began). But you? You seem to lack any and all understanding of when a stimulus could/should be assessed and instead "play politics." Or, more realistically, are used by those who are playing politics.

Further, You seemed to lack any understanding of why long-term spending was included. I don't mind an intellectual disagreement as to why that particular philosophy is wrong, but you didn't even seem to think it existed. On the thread that started all this Orion made just such an argument, I doubt you could follow it. Remember some of my points then? I doubt it. That'd be the part about multipliers, although I suppose we could have spoken of expectations or a plethora of other points that you either are ignorant of or choose not to engage with. This would be the IMF stuff I had posted on the other thread. But I'm sure you, lifty, and dhicky will tell me about how "horrible" it is to use the IMF and OECD as sources, right? Regardless, twice I posted an "econ 101" link to try to help you catch up and you still didn't get and and don't. Not really my problem.

Additionally, You used unemployment numbers and a report issued before the start of the Obama presidency (and before the surprising fourth quarter numbers came out) to justify yourself, not even realizing how limited and foolish this is/was. Not only because of the problems related to the counterfactual, not only because at best unemployment is a lagging indicator, but also because you fail to acknowledge how badly the situation had gotten by the fourth quarter. But any quick political attack point will do, right?

As if this all wasn't enough, you also claim that if it weren't for the stimulus, all would be well now. Ignoring that the economy was on the precipice and it no longer is so... but, according to you, all that was done was "liberal" and "a Bad Thing" (I really do love when you use capitalization to make your Important Points!). Absolute rubbish, but nothing new for you. At least the libertarians here have the capacity to hold an intellectual argument constant.

Now, a quick look at some additional sophomoric understandings:

Some economists argue that long-term investments, including infrastructure, have no place in a stimulus. These are mostly libertarians who don't want any stimulus. The far left Krugman types think much more spending should have been done in the short term. I happen to agree and wish more money would have been spent in the short term, but I disagree with anyone who thinks that ONLY money should have been spent in the first term as you foolishly do. This is particularly true in regards to infrastructure.

My god are you thick. Of course there are going to be problems with ANY STIMULUS. That everything isn't perfect is proof of nothing.

Basically there were three aspects to this stimulus. 1) short term spending, 2) tax cuts (that operate mostly in the mid term), and 3) infrastructure/long term investments. If you don't like the idea of long term investments, make the argument, don't pretend it doesn't exist.

For what little it's worth, I personally wanted to see more short-term, shovel ready programs (as well as infrastructure spending). But given the political realities and the republicans deciding they'd rather attack Obama than work with him to get a few of their points in, we got what we got. Not perfect, but better than nothing.

1st, you did not prove that it didn't give a short term boost to GDP.
2nd, I wanted more money out the door faster and I wish it would have gone out faster
3rd, Guess what would have happened if we could have gotten state budgetary support into the stimulus? That's right, more shovel-ready projects could have been implemented.
4th, We were rubbing up against capacity here. There were only just so many shovel ready projects available. And sending money out any faster would have certainly lead to greater fraud and waste. Personally, I would have taken greater fraud/waste to get more money out the door faster to incrase the "timing."

Soooo...the stimulus failed, the economy is horrible, but the economy doesn't "need it"? Setting aside that you agree that stimulus programs can work and thus his argument is convoluted as all get out, you'll have to exucse, but it WAS a temporary measure. This is where you argue that some small aspects might lead to long term spending... (here's a shocker big guy) THAT"S FINE. I wish some of your friends on the hill would have stayed in the game and worked with the administration to make the bill better, instead they cut and ran leaving some appropriations to appease the far left rather than the moderate right.

It's not that you don't "get it" it's that you're apparently unaware of the real debate.

Well, perhaps only a few of the posters here on PWI, after all, I didn't once say Obama is a racist or claim his policies are a "complete failure" or speak of how "awesome" libertarianism is... but I think I can live with that. I console myself with being taken seriously by the few sane posters.

That'd be because I normally am. Now can we be done trying to insult one another's personal lives? Or did you want to make a few more horribly incorrect guesses about me?


#8

Even if this "worked" better (or at all actually), I really think the last thing we need is anything that works to strengthen people's already poisonous and misguided confidence in government solutions. Why not just get the bureaucracies out of the way. Instead of first collecting private money in the form of taxes only to hand it back it out again, why not just not take it in the first place and let the private sector spend it without a federal middleman?

I saw 100 billion in tax cuts in there, but why put a number on it like that and tie it in with more artificially engineered "targeted" spending? Except for the token tax cut how is this not at bottom simply a smaller version of the same thing?


#9

I figured since the topic would be debated, it wouldn't make sense to keep in a thread about marriage. Second, TGunslinger suggested he was disappointed there wasn't a thread discussing fiscal issues. Thus, a thread was created.

It was a failure at the time. It was sold as an emergency bill to prevent unemployment from going beyond 8% and rescue the shrinking GDP - and it didn't deliver. "Stimuli" have to deliver in the short-term, especially if we had to pass it under such urgency that members of Congress and the public did not have time to even read the bill.

It wasn't "biased" - when a politician says "we must pass this bill now, without serious review of it, or else unemployment will go past 8.4%", and the bill is passed, and unemployment zips past 8.4%, the most fundamental selling point as to the "emergency" bill is, unassailably, a failure.

Let's examine it another way - had dread pirate George W. Bush said "we must pass this enormous tax cutting bill without reading it in order to prevent unemployment from going past 8.4%", the tax-cutting bill is passed, and unemployment zooms past 8.4% unabated, would it be a "failure"?

Incorrect, and it is amusing for you to suddenly demand the high road of non-partisanship. Too late - your cards are on the table.

The President rushed this bill through on the basis it "had to be done" to prevent certain economic calamities - mainly, unemployment. It did not deliver - and we knew only months after it was passed that it didn't deliver.

This part is easy - yet, your position seems to be "hmm, the Bill was designed to accomplish a certain task in the short term. It did not, but there is more to come". Fantastic - you're taking "faith based initiatives" to new, devout levels.

To the next part. While refusing to admit the obvious - that the stimulus main reason for existing in the first place (short term stimulus) was a failure, you cling to the hopes that the "long-term" element to the stimulus bill (a contradiction in terms, to be fair) is its saving grace and we should contenly sit back after the short-term failure and patiently wait for the long-term benefits to materialize. A few problems:

  1. The long-term benefits are contingent on the short-term, and this Bill has mucked up the short-term. The long-term plan - wholesale modifications to infrastructure (like the "energy grid" example) are contingent on the proposed GDP "boost" that the stimulus was supposed to provide, i.e., these trillion dollar programs were supposed to be paid for by the renewed motor of the stimulated economy.

The short-term boost didn't materialize, and now we face rising interest rates, inflationary pressures, and the pressure to raise taxes in a time when we are supposed to be "ramping up" these long-term projects. Instead of using the short-term stimulus as a "springboard" into these big, long-term projects, we are committed to trillions out of the public purse in a still weak economy that just got burdened with the cost of the short-term stimulus that generated no short-term kicker.

So now, we have the carrying costs of a failed short term stimulus, inflation, rising interest rate pressures, and trillions on our books for long-term projects we simply cannot afford, even if we thought them a fabulous idea in the first place (which, we didn't - nobody knows for sure what was in the Bill when it was passed).

Not exactly a solid foundation for sustainable growth going forward.

  1. Your proposal to "measure" a stimulus in the long-term is political nonsense. The economy will recover, stimulus or not. By your standard, there can never be a "bad" stimulus - when the economy inevitably recovers, politicans can always claim credit.

Instead of such silliness, a stimulus should be measured against the yardstick it was created against - did it "boost" the economy in the short-term and mitigate the downturn until the economy regains its footing?

  1. The long-term projects in the Recovery Act were never stimulus measures - they are all garden variety government spending programs. That isn't to say they are bad or good - they just aren't stimulus. More importantly, they certainly entail such fundamental commitments so as not to credibly be part of any bill rushed through without proper consideration of the merits and costs of each.

With the kinds of money on the table for these long-term projects, and with no realistic effect in the short-term "emergency", they should have been considered thoroughly in the ordinary course of politics. They weren't - and there was absolutely no legitimate reason to have them in an "emergency" stimulus bill.

We both know the reason they were included is to take advantage of a crisis, the same way the the health care bill was attempted - a similar long-term, non-stimulus proposal.

That isn't thoughtful, non-partisan economic stewardship - that is naked, cycnical politics. That you won't admit it is not my problem to fix.

This is an incredibly dishonest statement, or a naive one - the long-term projects weren't legitimate parts of any stimulus package. See above. Again, the economy was always going to recover - under your theory, is there any way an Obama or Pelosi couldn't claim credit for the recovery?

Further, any stimulus should be assessed precisely when a politician has presented an "if-then" to pass the stimulus - if Obama says we have to have this or else unemployment goes to 10%, and it goes to 10% anyway, any reasonable person can fairly assess that failure.

However, your initial visceral response indicates you are no such reasonable person - anyone critical of the stimulus package under the very metric President Obama sold it sent you into a partisan apoplexy that still hasn't subsided.

This, of course, is an outright lie, as I have been discussing the long-term spending since I began discussing this issue. Part of what makes the stimulus package problematic is its overextended commitments to long-term, non-stimulative spending regardless of whether the short-term boost materialized.

Why would I tell you those are bad sources? You are giving away your game with the straw men. And, I don't need to "catch up". Your haughty and empty triumphalism is just not and never been convincing - stick to arguing the merits.

Another lie - I never made the claim. As I stated earlier (and in a separate post), I supported an alternative stimulus and thought we needed one. If I thought "all would be well" without the Recovery Act, I wouldn't support other stimulus packages, would I, genius?

Who did this? What is the straw man count up to? See above.

It most certainly was a Bad Thing - it was a poorly conceived and poorly constructed stimulus, and was legislative trash driven by special interests, not by responsible economics. Obama sub-contracted out this legislation to Pelosi and demanded zero discipline, and then rammed it through passage, knowing full-well that if given time to be observed in the sunlight, the bill would have been rejected in favor of one less partisan.

You don't have a single fact to refute the above - not one. There was an opportunity to present a responsible, targeted, smart stimulus package. It wasn't done. Now, you want to sit back and wait to see how it all plays out, as if we have some obligation to adbicate common sense in the face of such an unserious bill. No thanks. The bill was not conceived in good faith - and, as such, no one has any obligation to sit back and nod like a lemming.

If spending on infrastructure is so important, it should be raised as a general appropriation and the bill should be considered in the ordinary course of legislation.

You want more government spending on certain projects - fine, that is your opinion - but you haven't made a single credible argument as to why such radical commitments and fundamental "investments" need to be in a stimulus package that is zipped through Congress as an emergency bill.

Merely wanting more government spending on these projects isn't a reason. We could still spend trillions on these projects if they were left out of the stimulus package - they were included in the stimulus package for purely political reasons, and no stimulative ones.

For stimulus purposes, money should only be spent in the short-term - and essentially everyone other than hard-lefties are coming around to that conclusion as we air this thing out.

No, it is proof of something - you kept whining that I "just didn't get it" when all the while I was taking the position of the criticism listed in the website you used as a crutch.

Suddenly, you come around to the idea that a stimulus will inevitably have some problems, but when I spent post after post highlighting the problems (in accordance with Obama's own economic advisor's points of view), you insisted that my highlighting these problems was just an example of how I "just didn't understand".

How convenient. Looks like I "got it" all along, but we both knew that, so I have no reason to pile on.

Another straw man - I never pretended "long term investments" didn't exist, I said they are a different legislative animal than a typical stimulus package and should be treated accordingly. I have acknowledged from the beginning long-term investments and spending - they have been central to ever argument I have made.

Always a little disappointing when you start changing your bullshit story - and more than a little obvious as to why.

Who cares? All this is irrelevant to the point I made by highlighting your own source - all this menstruation on your end about how, by virtue of the criticisms I had, I just didn't "get" how stimulus packages worked or whatever, only to demonstrate that had you even bothered to read your own cut-and-paste, you'd have known I was right in the middle of the mainstream criticism of it.

Oh, and note to the partisan hack - Republicans were shut out of any work on the Recovery Act. Pelosi wanted a scorched-earth bill and wasn't going to let anyone tinker with it.

Your claim that "Republicans decided that they had rather attack Obama than work with him" is a fabrication, but not surprising, given that your main goal is to make sure and give Obama/Pelosi political cover, even if you have to make it up to do so.

Let me guess - GDP numbers is just one more thing you don't follow?

Well-stated. This is nothing more than a tacit admission that Congress and the President simply didn't know the facts on the ground prior to passing the bill.

Good Lord, are you still trying to peddle this fiction? No one was going to work with the administration on the bill - Pelosi rode herd on it, Obama was a bystander.

Pelosi never allowed the GOP input, and Obama wouldn't slow down passage of it to get not just GOP input, but also public input - i.e., Obama's campagn promise of allowing a bill to be online for five (5) days before passage so the public could form an opinion.

You can be dumb or ill-informed, but don't be a fraud.

I've been arguing in the "real debate" since I opined on the topic. Enough with the trash talk - you aren't qualified to do it.

Well, so much for consolation then.

Well, if nothing else, you are good for a laugh.


#10

Obama's Stimulus Package was not a stimulus package at all. Its a Trojan Horse.


#11

"I will stop the motor of the world." --- John Galt (Atlas Shrugged)


#12

Yep...now they are saying they have to raise taxes on the 95% they promised not to.


#13

Yes, and that notion is being corroborated by third parties, who say that Obama's health care plan, for example, can't be paid for by merely taxing the rich:

"There is no way we can pay for health care and the rest of the Obama agenda, plus get our long-term deficits under control, simply by raising taxes on the wealthy," said Isabel V. Sawhill, a former Clinton administration budget official. "The middle class is going to have to contribute as well."


#14

I see the large response above and If I get motivated, I'll try to find time to read it tomorrow if I find a moment, but I thought I just read this and thought I'd share. For those of you who aren't interested in proving that one side is "a complete failure" : http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displayStory.cfm?story_id=14156153&source=features_box3

(perhaps Orion can use this pic to change his avatar).

I got a little ambitious:

Since we're trying to track the economy, let's see what some heavy hitters have to say:

Brookings take: (A video for those who don't like to read): http://www.brookings.edu/multimedia/video/2009/0731_rivlin_economy.aspx

OECD: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/7/29/20209180.pdf

The IMF: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2009/RES070809A.htm

McCain: "Itâ??s very clear that the stimulus has had some effect,â?? the former Republican presidential nominee said." ...although he believes the long term effects outweigh the short term good. http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2009/08/02/mccain-stimulus-has-had-some-effect/

Obama
Video http://www.whitehouse.gov/weekly_address/
Text (from WSJ): http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2009/08/01/obama-says-gdp-numbers-show-recovery-act-working-long-term-investments-still-needed/


#15

To claim that the stimulus was a failure right after it came out was in no way premature, "biases" or "sophomoric". You could say that about every stimulus package even before it comes out.

The argument is pretty simple:

If what the government was doing would be creating the optimal amount of utility the market would already be doing it.

Since it does not, the government automatically destroys utility because it takes money away from people and directs it to less than optimal investments.

So, even before we have factored in pork spending, nepotism and general incompetence, the sheer act of diverting money from more useful ventures destroys future value.

Unfortunately government apologists can point at the projects finished with looted money, like the Hoover Dam, whereas free marketeers cannot you show the wealth that never name to be instead of it.


#16

At least your argument is ideologically consistent. If you'll notice, that's not at all what TB was arguing.


#17

This will create more deflationary pressure, which is precisely what the Japanese have been suffering with for the past 20 years. Consumer spending is 2/3 of our economy. How do get consumer spending up when you're taking more income away from people? Already, the savings rate of the US consumer has skyrocketed from its nadir in 2003-2006 to 6% as people attempt to pay down their consumer debt. What will more taxes do but create more tight-wads? My prediction is that these taxes will lead to more deflation and more calls for stimulus to try to inflate out of the deflation, which will work only until other nations stop buying our bonds. The Chinese are already planning their end run around our status as the world's reserve currency with their move to create a conglomerate reserve currency with the dollar being only a fraction of it.

Here's the real current CPI, btw:
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2009/07/whats-real-cpi.html


#18

I hope that my argument is not only ideological but logically consistent.

Because if that was the case and if you accept the premise that governments cannot create net value, which you must if you accept Pareto ordinal utility concept, which most economist do, then it would automatically follow that my conclusions are correct.


#19

Hilarious article.

One data point. Everyone start rejoicing!

LOL. wut? The prices actually continued to decline, just not at the same rate:
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2009/07/peak-to-trough-case-shiller-and-car.html
http://westside-bubble.blogspot.com/2009/07/may-s.html

75% of the nation wants to see a Fed audit. We're trusting these guys...why?

So should we wait another year for Commerce to "revise" its estimates of how bad 2009 was, or should we believe them now anyway? When they say "the American GDP expanded," are they still counting consumer debt a part of that expansion?


#20

Well, you gotta ask yourself Orion, why is it that every country in the industrialized world thinks differently than you do. I'm sure there are individuals within each country that agree, but I believe every single OECD country used a stimulus this time around (was there one that didn't? I don't feel like looking it up right now).

So you find yourself on the outside of the mainstream, nothing wrong with that per se. But you also want to abolish central banks, right? Does that mean you don't see a smoothing of the boom-bust cycle over the last few decades, do you believe that that was "natural," or, perhaps, do you believe this smoothing was not the right thing to do for the economy?

Then, of course, you have to look at the mixed results from previous stimulus packages. Cuz it sure seemed like some of them had some effect. You are arguing, if I'm not misunderstanding you, that all of the evidence that these had some effect is inconclusive or wrong, and that in fact, just letting things ride would be better, right?

So, in short, I think your argument is mostly ideological. And, in truth, there's little wrong with your theory from what I can see, it's just that once you make it to policy the real world realities step in and we find ourselves "muddling through" (to borrow a phrase). In this "muddled" world, we don't live in an ideal and must make do with what is available for us. There's nothing wrong with Utopians, and theorists like yourself provide a hell of a lot for society, so I appreciate the insights, but don't always buy the ideology.