It's true that we'll never know if true Keynesian economic action, in and of itself, would have been enough to get us more completely out of the 2008-2009 recession, and sturdy the economy against a second dip of recession quite likely to hit us.
That said, what if Obama had made the stimulus, say, $1.5 trillion? Would that have been enough? If a large part of it were spent on government public works, especially of the type where housing carpenters could have easily been retrained, perhaps.
Certainly, one hallmark of FDR's Keynesian spending was on direct public employment. Not just the deficits were stimulatory, but actually creating jobs was even more so.
Of course, Dear Leader's neoliberalism was too engrained for that, for him to experiment with 21st-century federal jobs creation.
So, Keynesianism alone perhaps would have been enough. Or ...
Perhaps not. More below the fold.
Looking back at the depression, other than deficit spending ... other than deficit spending on public sector jobs, FDR tried other things. That spirit of experimentation I mentioned above the fold found other outlets.
The reason I wonder if Keynesianism alone would have worked is severalfold.
One, it does take longer to ramp up to fix a bunch of bridges not on a repair schedule than it does to build a hiking trail in Yosemite with non-power tools.
Two, the zero-interest policy of the Fed surely says that stimulus policy could only go so far.
Look at TARP. Most bailout recipients found ways to reinvest their money, making a buck off the Fed.
Third, given America's last 30 years, there is always a risk that taking a primarily Keynesian deficits approach to escaping a recession will produce a new bubble.
So, what else could Obama have done ... besides put more progressivity into tax rates, as a sidebar?
Tax credits for hiring have been mentioned before. That's a good one.
Smaller tax credits for companies voluntarily going to a 35-hour full time week would have been a HUGE social transformation.
Off the top of my head, I can't think of other answers, but it's clear that Obama simply didn't try to do much, or try to get his advisers to think much, in terms of labor policy. Again, he's a neoliberal, so no surprise there.
It's clear now, as Andrew Leonard notes at Salon, despite Jared Bernstein faithfully semi-spinning for his former boss, that Obama has no employment policy.
But, let's look at something else. It's clear to me, and to many other people I know, that the single biggest causal difference for America's K-12 educational gap vis-a-vis other developed nations is the 180-day school year. Fiscal policy, of financial carrots for states, should have been proposed for moving states, over, say, a 3-5 year period, to a 198-day school year, or longer. Teacher and aide hiring to go with this would have been very stimulative.
More in a separate post.