February 25, 2003

Thoughts on the Republican Economists' Letter

Thoughts on the Republican Economists' Letter

So I downloaded and read the text and signature list of the Republican economists' letter supporting the Bush Administration's budget proposals:

We enthusiastically endorse your economic growth and jobs proposal. It is fiscally responsible and it will create more employment, economic growth, and opportunities for all Americans. Moreover, it will improve corporate accountability and strengthen the nation's international competitiveness.

I was somewhat disappointed for three reasons:

I was moderately disappointed, first, that the letter was so short. If you have an opportunity as a professional economist to gain some media attention, you have a duty to use that opportunity to raise the level of the media debate over economic policy. This letter doesn't. It doesn't tell anyone who reads it why cutting dividend taxes would (if the appropriate adjustments are made to hold the right other things constant) be a good idea. It doesn't tell anyone who reads it why it would improve corporate accountability (a thing that nobody has explained to me to my satisfaction). It doesn't tell anyone who reads it how it would strengthen America's international competitiveness--let along what "international competitiveness" is, or why it is worth strengthening.

I was slightly disappointed, second, to see Greg Mankiw's, Mike Boskin's, and Marty Feldstein's names on the signature list. I don't think the letter accurately reflects their views--meaning that if I held their views about how the economy works and what a good society looks like, and if I held their political allegiances, I would not have signed the letter. From Boskin's, Feldstein's, and Mankiw's perspective, "international competitiveness" is not a productive or a useful way to think about international trade issues. They should have asked for a cut of that last clause before the signed the letter. Moreover, you cannot read the "Stewardship" chapter of the Analytical Perspectives volume of the 2003 Budget and claim that the Bush Administration proposals are fiscally responsible. The most you can sign on to is something like, "It is fiscally responsible, when considered in conjunction with effective proposals to drastically slow the long-run rate of growth of entitlement spending." They should have asked for the addition of that clause before signing on as well.

Moreover, they would have gotten the changes they wanted. Without their names, the signature list of the letter is not all that terribly impressive: the overall impression is of people who don't know very much about the federal budget, old Republicans who should have known better, young Republicans who I hope will soon learn better, political hacks hoping for government jobs, lobbyists hoping to get their names on lists of people owed favors, and a smattering of True Believers with fringe views (not that there is anything wrong with having fringe views: my views on a number of important questions are "fringe": truth is not always with the establishment consensus). Keeping Boskin, Feldstein, and Mankiw on board would have been a high priority.

And--here is the third reason I was disappointed, the reason I was most disappointed--exercising their muscles would have materially improved the chances that Bush Administration economic policy would move in a positive direction. The Bush Administration appears to be dominated by media affairs and political affairs people to a previously-unseen degree. This means that taming media affairs and political affairs has an unusually high prioriity. Even in normal times, professional economists need to be guided in their relationships with White House media and political affairs by the maxim of the Roman Empire Caligula: "Oderint dum metuant": "Let them hate [me], as long as they fear [me]." It is important that media affairs and political affairs know that the professional economists value their own professional standing and value good economic policies more than they value being team players who are helpful to the administration. If media affairs and political affairs recognize that economists won't always do what they are asked, economists can do a lot of business with them: raising the level of the public debate, shifting public policy in a positive direction, and aiding politicians whom you do by and large see as the best (or the least evil) alternative.

But here the muscles weren't exercised. The chance of establishing the dum metuant point, that good substantive economic policies are worth having, if only because otherwise one's stable of economists won't cooperate, has been lost.


Addendum: More interesting than the letter text and the list of who did sign, perhaps, is the list of who did not sign the Republican economists' letter. Of the seventeen living former members and chairs of Republican Councils of Economic Advisers over the past forty years, only four signed the letter. I understand that some people are inactive, and that others are hard to find (even with the astroturf-generating resources at the disposal of the White House). But four of seventeen is a very low score. Anne Krueger, Paul Wonnacott, David Bradford, Richard Schmalensee, Michael Mussa, Thomas Moore, William Poole, Paul MacAvoy, Gary Seevers, Marina von Neumann Whiteman, Hendrick Houthakker, Paul McCracken--pillars of the Republican economic policy establishment--did not sign.

I read the low signature rate from Republican former CEA members as a strong sign that these policies really are out there in the Gamma Quadrant, relative to the policies Republican economists have usually advocated.

Oh yes. The one more Republican CEA ex-Chair who did not sign: Alan Greenspan.

The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Bush:

We enthusiastically endorse your economic growth and jobs proposal. It is fiscally responsible and it will create more employment, economic growth, and opportunities for all Americans. Moreover, it will improve corporate accountability and strengthen the nation's international competitiveness.

Sincerely,

Douglas K. Adie, Ohio University
Richard Agnello, University of Delaware
William Albrecht, University of Iowa
Donald Alexender, Western Michigan University
William R. Allen, UCLA
Annelise Anderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Martin Anderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Jim Araji, University of Idaho
Paul Ballantyne, University of Colorado in Colorado Springs
Stacie E. Beck, University of Delaware
Donald Bellante, University of South Florida
Bruce Bender, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
James T. Bennett, George Mason University
M. Douglas Berg, Sam Houston State University
Robert Blake, Forecasters Club of New York
Cecil E. Bohanon, Ball State University
Don Booth, Chapman University
George H. Borts, Brown University
Michael J. Boskin, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Leonard Bower, consultant
Michael Brandl, University of Texas at Austin
Emile J. Brinkmann, Mortgage Bankers Association of America
Horace W. Brock, Strategic Economic Decisions, Inc.
Wayne T. Brough, Citizens for a Sound Economy
Jackson Brown, American Dental Association
Jeffrey Brown, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Phillip J. Bryson, Marriott School, BYU
Todd Buchholz, Enso Capital Management
James B. Burnham, Duquesne University
Michelle Burtis, LECG LLC
James L. Butkiewicz, University of Delaware
Samantha Carrington, California State University at Los Angeles
Kenneth W. Chilton, Lindenwood University
Ernest S. Christian, Center For Strategic Tax Reform
Lawrence R. Cima, John Carroll University
J.R. Clark, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Darin G. Clay, University of Southern California
Daniel M. Clifton, American Shareholders Association
Howard Cochran, Belmont University
John P. Cochran, Metropolitan State College of Denver
John Cogan, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Boyd Collier, Tarleton State University
Phil Colling, Mortgage Bankers Association of America
Roy Cordato, John Locke Foundation
Ted Covey, Prosperity Caucus
Eleanor D. Craig, University of Delaware
Mark Crain, George Mason University
Thomas D. Crocker, University of Wyoming
Coldwell Daniel III, University of Memphis
Lawrence S. Davidson, Indiana University
Ronnie H. Davis, Printing Industries of America
Ed Day, University of Central Florida
Stephen J. Dempsey, University of Vermont
Christopher DeMuth, American Enterprise Institute
John L. Dobra, University of Nevada
Michael Dowd, University of Toledo
Thomas J. Duesterberg, Manufacturers Alliance
Douglas G. Duncan, Mortgage Bankers Association of America
John B. Egger, Towson University
Isaac Ehrlich, SUNY at Buffalo
Michael A. Ellis, Kent State University
Kenneth G. Elzinga, University of Virginia
Michael R. Englund, MMS International
Stephen J. Entin, Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation
Ed Erickson, North Carolina State University
Richard E. Ericson, Columbia University
Paul Evans, Ohio State University
Frank Falero, California State University
Allen M. Featherstone, Kansas State University
Martin Feldstein, Harvard University
John Foltz, University of Idaho
Kristin J. Forbes, MIT
William F. Ford, Middle Tennessee State University
Kenneth C. Froewiss, NYU
Robert C. Fry, Washington, West Virginia
David Garthoff, University of Akron
James F. Gatti, University of Vermont
David Gay, University of Arkansas
Richard F. Gleisner, St. Cloud State University
Claudio Gonzalez, Ohio State University
Ernest Goss, Creighton University
Scott F. Grannis, Western Asset Management
John G. Greenhut, Arizona State University West
Earl Grinols, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Timothy Groseclose, Stanford Graduate School of Business
James Gwartney, Florida State University
David L. Hammes, University of Hawaii at Hilo
J. Daniel Hammond, Wake Forest University
Stephen Happel, Arizona State University
Kevin Hassett, American Enterprise Institute
Joel W. Hay, University of Southern California
Will C. Heath, Heath Economics
Dale M. Heien, University of California at Davis
Pat Hendershott, Ohio State University
James W. Henderson, Baylor University
Melvin J. Hinich, University of Texas
Mark Hirschey, University of Kansas
Harold M. Hochman, Lafayette College
Robert J. Hodrick, Columbia University
Lawrence A. Hunter, Empower America
Thomas R. Ireland, University of Missouri at St. Louis
John D. Jackson, Auburn University
Lowell Jacobsen, Baker University
Sherry Jarrell, Wake Forest University
Michael C. Jensen, Harvard Business School
Clifton T. Jones, Stephen F. Austin State University
Richard E. Just, University of Maryland
Steven N. Kaplan, University of Chicago
Ed Kaplan, Western Washington University
Raymond J. Keating, Small Business Survival Committee
Kristen Keith, University of Toledo
B.F. Kiker, University of South Carolina
E. Han Kim, University of Michigan
Paul Koch, Olivet Nazarene University
Meir Kohn, Dartmouth College
Melvyn Krauss, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Peter Kretzmer, Bank of America
Robert Krol, California State University at Northridge
Larry Kudlow, Kudlow & Co.
Richard La Near, Missouri Southern State College
Arthur Laffer, Laffer Associates
William E. Laird, Jr., Florida State University
Russell Lamb, North Carolina State University
Don Leet, California State University at Fresno
John D. Leeth, Bentley College
Ken Lehn, University of Pittsburgh
Cotton M. Lindsay, Clemson University
Larry Lindsey, The Lindsey Group
Dennis E. Logue, University of Oklahoma
Lawrence W. Lovik, Troy State University
Harold I. Lunde, Bowling Green State University
Donald L. Luskin, Trend Macrolytics, LLC
Burton Malkiel, Princeton University
David Malpass, Bear Stearns & Co. Inc.
N. Gregory Mankiw, Harvard University
Richard Manning, Pfizer, Inc.
Dick Marcus, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
Michael L. Marlow, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Merrill Matthews, Jr., Council for Affordable Health Insurance
Thomas H. Mayor, University of Houston
Tom Means, San Jose State University
Allan H. Meltzer, Carnegie Mellon University
Michael Melvin, Arizona State University
Stephen Mennemeyer, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Lloyd Mercer, University of California at Santa Barbara
John Merrifield, University of Texas at San Antonio
Jim Miller, Director, Office of Management and Budget, 1985-88
Jim Mintert, Kansas State University
Velma Montoya, National Council of Hispanic Women
Steve Moore, Club for Growth
John Moorhouse, Wake Forest University
John Murray, University of Toledo
Harry Nagel, St. John's University
Anthony Negbenebor, Gardner-Webb University
George R. Neumann, University of Iowa
Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform
Seth W. Norton, Wheaton College
William Oakland, Tulane University
Lee E. Ohanian, UCLA
Richard W. Oliver, American Graduate School of Management
June O'Neill, Baruch College, City University of New York
Lydia Ortega, San Jose State University
Karen Palasek, John Locke Foundation
Randall E. Parker, East Carolina University
James Parrino, Babson College
E.C. Pasour, Jr., North Carolina State University
Mark Perry, University of Michigan at Flint
Tomas Philipson, University of Chicago
Barry Poulson, University of Colorado
Edward C. Prescott, University of Minnesota
Jan S. Prybyla, Pennsylvania State University
Gary Quinlivan, Saint Vincent College
Richard W. Rahn, Discovery Institute
John Rapp, University of Dayton
Eric Rasmusen, Indiana University
Martin A. Regalia, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Carmen M. Reinhart, International Monetary Fund
Christine P. Ries, Georgia Institute of Technology
Aldona Robbins, Fiscal Associates
Gary Robbins, Fiscal Associates
Paul Craig Roberts, Institute for Political Economy
Charles K. Rowley, George Mason University
Paul H. Rubin, Emory University
Roy J. Ruffin, University of Houston
Mark Rush, University of Florida
John Ryding, Bear Stearns & Co. Inc.
Andrew Sacher, Caxton Associates
Gary J. Santoni, Ball State University
Thomas R. Saving, Texas A&M University
Kurt Schuler, Office of the Vice Chairman, Joint Economic Committee, US Congress
Michael Schuyler, Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation
Robert Scott, California State University, Chico
Gerald W. Scully, University of Texas at Dallas
Richard T. Selden, University of Virginia
Barry J. Seldon, University of Texas at Dallas
John Semmens, Laissez Faire Institute
Richard J. Sexton, University of California at Davis
Sol Shalit, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
Alan C. Shapiro, University of Southern California
Gary L. Shoesmith, Wake Forest University
William F. Shughart II, University of Mississippi
Charles David Skipton, Florida State University
Amy Smith, formerly with the Office of Management and Budget
James F. Smith, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Rodney T. Smith, Stratecon, Inc.
Vernon L. Smith, George Mason University (Nobel Laureate)
Neil H. Snyder, University of Virginia
John C. Soper, John Carroll University
Frank Spreng, McKendree College
Beryl W. Sprinkel, B.W. Sprinkel Economics
Stan Spurlock, Mississippi State University
William G. Stanford, University of Illinois at Chicago
Ben Stein, actor, writer, economist
Carl H. Stem, Texas Tech University
Craig A. Stepenson, Babson College
E. Frank Stephenson, Berry College
Courtenay C. Stone, Ball State University
Robert Tamura, Clemson University
Fred Telling, Pfizer, Inc.
Rebecca Thacker, Ohio University
Clifford Thies, Shenandoah University
Leo Troy, Rutgers University
Kamal Upadhyaya, University of New Haven
Richard Vedder, Ohio University
Tony Villamil, The Washington Economics Group
Richard E. Wagner, George Mason University
William B. Walstad, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Stephen J.K. Walters, Loyola College in Maryland
Harold Warren, East Tennessee State University
Marc Weidenmier, Claremont McKenna College
John T. Wenders, University of Idaho
Brian S. Wesbury, Griffin, Kubik, Stephens & Thompson
Walter Wessels, North Carolina State University
Robert Whaples, Wake Forest University
John Whitley, University of Adelaide
John H. Wicks, University of Montana at Missoula
Gary W. Williams, Texas A&M University
Michael E. Williams, University of Denver
Douglas Wills, University of Washington at Tacoma
Michael K. Wohlgenant, North Carolina State University
Charles Wolf, Jr., Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Gary Wolfram, Hillsdale College
Gene C. Wunder, Washburn University
Richard Yamarone, Argus Research Corp.
Andrew Yuengert, Pepperdine University
Paul J. Zak, Claremont Graduate University
M.Y. Zaki, Northern Michigan University
Asghar Zardkoohi, Texas A&M University
Kate Zhou, University of Hawaii
Benjamin Zycher, Pacific Research Institute

Posted by DeLong at February 25, 2003 10:50 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Can someone explain to me how "We are looking at (a deficit) for the foreseeable future" can be described as "fiscally responsible"?

Posted by: Nick on February 25, 2003 11:39 AM

I was going to say that Anne Krueger maybe might have signed but didn't want to because of IMF affiliation, wanting to stay out of domestic policy debates. But looking down the list, I see that Carmen Reinhart from IMF did sign. Can they do that?

Posted by: P O'Neill on February 25, 2003 11:42 AM

Someone once quoted John Podesta on a comments board at Daily Kost: "When somebody brings me a plan relying on the moderate Republicans sticking together, I say `Bring me another plan'".

I think the corollary is "When somebody brings me plan relying on the Republican economists speaking truth to power, I say `Bring me another plan'"

If you want a canonical example of an intelligent man saying foolish things, even in their alleged area of expertise, look up Martin Feldstein's paper circa 1993-94, asserting the dead-weight losses of Clinton's tax increase were enormous, and therefore repealing the tax increase would not cause an loss of revenue.

Posted by: roublen vesseau on February 25, 2003 11:53 AM

But, do you really want the Bush Economic Policy to actually move in a positive direction? I ask, because to my mind that would require a 180 degree turnaround, and I don't think that there is any intent or desire on Bush's part to do such a thing. Isn't it better to let it rot in the subterreanian levels whence it sprang? After all, in the end, no matter what form it gets proposed and passed at, it will end up being the same short sighted, high income favored, pro-big business nightmare they actually implement anyway.

Posted by: Duckman GR on February 25, 2003 11:58 AM

But, do you really want the Bush Economic Policy to actually move in a positive direction? I ask, because to my mind that would require a 180 degree turnaround, and I don't think that there is any intent or desire on Bush's part to do such a thing. Isn't it better to let it rot in the subterreanian levels whence it sprang? After all, in the end, no matter what form it gets proposed and passed at, it will end up being the same short sighted, high income favored, pro-big business nightmare they actually implement anyway.

Posted by: Duckman GR on February 25, 2003 11:59 AM

Martin Feldstein and Buddies have no regard for Social Security or Medicare, and are hoping against hope that a severe worsening of the Federal deficit will force large changes in the programs. Trusting in the probity of the comments they make would be comical. Time we realized what these sorts of economists are about!

Posted by: dahl on February 25, 2003 12:15 PM

The biggest mystery is why they could not get Bob Barro to sign this. Given his recent columns in Business Week, Barro thinks that Bush's policies are brilliant (I think the preferred synonym for brilliant in his circles is 'Reaganesque'), so I wonder why they did not get this potential Nobel prize winning Republican luminary to sign this.

And if Barro, who is perfectly willing to blatantly mislead in the columns of BW is not willing to sign this, what does that say about the statement?

Posted by: achilles on February 25, 2003 12:19 PM

"When somebody brings me plan relying on the Republican economists speaking truth to power, I say `Bring me another plan'"

Perfect.

Posted by: anne on February 25, 2003 12:22 PM

Duckman reiterated the tempting (to me, anyway) idea that "you have to hit rock bottom to be able to realize that you've got a problem. (And then fix it.)"

I'm assuming a couple of things:
1. The next administration is going to have some major cleanup to do. The degree to which the current administration cloodges the economy will reflect the degree to which for next administration will have to clean it up.
2. The next administration may come sooner, rather than later, on account of weak job growth.

I believe that the administration has already lost it's chance to promote job growth through sound fiscal policy. (It would have had to have been last year or the year before, and even then it's possible that it wouldn't have changed the short-term outlook.) So if they can't fix the job situation, which resonates most powerfully with voters, they're going to have a more difficult time keeping the White House in a couple of years.

Moving in a positive direction, in context, might be more akin to damage control.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on February 25, 2003 12:50 PM

“Can someone explain to me how "We are looking at (a deficit) for the foreseeable future" can be described as "fiscally responsible"?”

Gosh, that’s a very easy question to answer. It is fiscally responsible to plan for deficits for the foreseeable future--if you don’t have any realistic alternatives! The real question is whether this is truly case for the Bush administration.

Posted by: David Thomson on February 25, 2003 12:52 PM

Strikes me that after the terrible rubbish that Feldstein and Mankiw have both been prepared to sign up to in the name of social security privatisation, I'm pretty amazed that anyone's still surprised at their behaviour.

Posted by: dsquared on February 25, 2003 01:05 PM

(for anyone who's interested, Feldstein's sin on SocSecPriv was to sign off on a report which projected 1.5% long term real growth in the US economy combined with a 7% real rate of return on equities, implying roughly a PE of 138x by 2040).

Posted by: dsquared on February 25, 2003 01:09 PM

" If you have an opportunity as a professional economist to gain some media attention, you have a duty to use that opportunity to raise the level of the media debate over economic policy. "

Maybe someone should tell that to Paul "liar liar pants on fire" Krugman

Posted by: Tony on February 25, 2003 01:21 PM

Heh heh.

Dozens of Nobel laureates sign a letter denouncing Bush's tax plan, and so what do the Republicans respond with...

An endorsement by "economist" Ben Stein.

There's that great conservative sense of humor conservatives are always telling us about.

I don't know about the timing but this sure sounds like a rush job to smooth over that embarassing non-endorsement by the Blue Chip Economic Forecast.

Posted by: Evan Marriott on February 25, 2003 01:45 PM

DD

Thank you for making clear what the return assumptions really amounted to for a privatized Social Security program. Glen Hubbard's new economic report shows just how important is the idea of making employees solely responsible for retirement funding. The budget plan with the proposal to radically expand IRA allowances essentially allows employers to drop a responsibility for employee retirement.

The deficit prospects from this budget are simply astounding unless we assume that Social Security and Medicare will be completely altered.

Posted by: randall on February 25, 2003 02:15 PM

By every responsible traditional Republican standard, the budget is simply scary. We will rue passing it with fierce structural deficits.

Posted by: randall on February 25, 2003 02:24 PM

In the interests of full disclosure, I'll make it clear that I haven't looked for the source which shows it was Feldstein who wrote that report; but I seem to remember him saying something similar and I'm rarely completely wrong on such things.

Posted by: dsquared on February 25, 2003 02:28 PM

Ben Stein is an economist? He was an economics major at Columbia and then attended Yale Law School. I'm an economics major, and I've finished all the requirements of the major. Does that mean I can call myself an economist now?!!

Grover Norquist an economist? He does have a B.A. in economics and MBA both from Harvard. But do those make him an economist? Where's the PhD?

Besides Edward Prescott and the three economists who delong mentioned, do the economists who signed this letter hold prestige in the profession -- how many are considered right-wing cranks?

Posted by: Bobby on February 25, 2003 03:09 PM

"Thoughts on the Republican Economists' Letter"

Republican? Did Herr Professor poll each signer to determine his or her party membership? I doubt it.

"I was slightly disappointed, second, to see Greg Mankiw's, Mike Boskin's, and Marty Feldstein's names on the signature list. I don't think the letter accurately reflects their views--"

Well thank you Dr. DeLong for informing these well respected and accomplished academics that they are so stupid that they signed something they don't truly believe. What gall. They signed of their own free will. He acts as if they were presented with a classic Hobson's choice. The gravemen of his position is debatable and while there is nothing wrong with plumply engaging in an argy-bargy, his apodictic animadversions on the politics of the day are undeniably prejudiced.

Posted by: Rene on February 25, 2003 03:19 PM

whoops missed vernon smith

Posted by: Bobby on February 25, 2003 03:19 PM

I took an economics class as an undergrad. Perhaps I could be on the list...

Posted by: Preston on February 25, 2003 03:21 PM

*pats self on back for being Right All Along*

;-)

Posted by: Michael Harris on February 25, 2003 03:31 PM

Rene,
You'll note that calling the letter a "Republican Economists' letter" does not necessarily mean that the economists listed are all Republican (though I consider that likely). Both "Republican" and "Econonmists'" could be modifiers for "Letter". Only Dr. Delong can say for sure, but if that's the best you can do by way of a response...

As for Dr. Feldstein, his positions and history are well known, and it's not unreasonable to point out that he's contradicting himself (again, evidently) by signing the letter as written.

Posted by: Jonathan on February 25, 2003 03:41 PM

Whoa Rene, no need to drown in your vocabulary there. Brad didn't call those three stupid, he said he was 'disappointed' and thought that they should have modified the letter a bit to make it more nuanced before signing it.

Granted he was less charitable towards a few of the other economists (I am thinking the Vernon Smith, Ohanian, Philipson types instead of the Norquist, Ben Stein, Stephen Moore type of 'economist') but at no point did he call Mankiw, Feldstein or Boskin 'stupid'. I don't know Brad at all but I would venture a gues sthat he would call himself 'stupid' if he ever reached the point where he labeled those three guys 'stupid'. Now Stephen Moore on the other hand....

Posted by: achilles on February 25, 2003 03:46 PM

>>An endorsement by "economist" Ben Stein.<<

Now, now. I saw Ben Stein on TV last night. He was quite smooth and coherent. He gathered his arguments sensibly, and presented them thoughtfully. By the time he had finished I agreed with him.

He was right to give such a high score to the flag-raising woodchuck on Animal Planet's "Pet Stars" show...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on February 25, 2003 04:04 PM

Ben Stein did, however, remember that he had been taught about monetarism in college. Alas, in a recent exchange with Krugman. he seemed to believe that monetarism was the central tenet of the Fed even though many years had passed since he last cracked an economics textbook. But, on the other hand, he can't be all bad: anyone who starred in as great a movie as Ferris Bueller's Day Off has got to be admired for life in my book.

Posted by: achilles on February 25, 2003 04:36 PM

Perhaps it is common knowledge, but Ben Stein's, father Herb was the chairman of the CEA during the early 70's, and is credited, by Ben, with coining the phrase voodoo economics.

Posted by: Brian on February 25, 2003 05:30 PM

And what has it come to now ... zoodoo(*) economics?

* http://zoo.org/zoo_info/special/zoodoo.htm

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on February 25, 2003 08:01 PM

Don Luskin doesn't even have a college degree.

Posted by: user on February 25, 2003 08:42 PM

dsquared wrote, "In the interests of full disclosure, I'll make it clear that I haven't looked for the source which shows it was Feldstein who wrote that report; but I seem to remember him saying something similar and I'm rarely completely wrong on such things."

My recollection is that Dean Baker (formerly of EPI) wrote a series of letters to Feldstein pointing out the inconsistencies in the assumptions of the pro-privatizers.

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on February 25, 2003 09:02 PM

GMOGRADY48 writes...

As probably the only Latin pedant who reads your daily journal, I thought I should mention off list that oderint dum metuant, long loved example of the use of the subjunctive, is actually from a play about Atreus by the republican (2nd cent bc) poet Accius. Next to Atreus Caligula was a real sweetheart.

Not so long ago Nicholas Kristoff attributed it to Cicero (who does quote it more than once) and caught hell in certain quarters for not recognizing it as a quotation.

You may know better than I if Caligula ever used it, or, more likely given the nature of the biographical tradition, had it claimed as his sentiments.

With appreciation for your site,

Posted by: Brad DeLong on February 25, 2003 09:07 PM

As Galileo claimed, citing Aquinas, who invoked the dictum of Aristotle ... authority is the weakest form of argument.

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on February 25, 2003 09:55 PM

Well it looks like Brad DeLong is more willing to admit he's wrong than Bush.

Look on the bright side, it doesn't look like the economy will turn around on this plan. So if we aren't all under martial law by the time of the next election, Bush may actually lose even though the Democrats don't have a good candidate.

Posted by: Amused Reader on February 25, 2003 10:35 PM

I bought an enonomy car once- can I be an economist?

Posted by: secular clergyman on February 25, 2003 11:43 PM

>>Besides Edward Prescott and the three economists who delong mentioned, do the economists who signed this letter hold prestige in the profession -- how many are considered right-wing cranks?<<

Edward Prescott has written two absolutely fantastic papers, and IMO, ought to have won a Nobel for the central bank credibility one. But even his best friends wouldn't try to pretend he wasn't a right wing crank. The categories "holding prestige in the profession" and "right wing crank" have significant overlap.

Posted by: dsquared on February 26, 2003 06:24 AM

I bought an enonomy car once- can I be an economist?

I fly economy class *all* the time. I am a bigger 'economist'.

but why doesn't somebody tell Ben Stein he is 'NOT an economist' to his face and in a public debate, preferably on TV?

Posted by: Suresh Krishnamoorthy on February 26, 2003 07:08 AM

>>But here the muscles weren't exercised. The chance of establishing the dum metuant point, that good substantive economic policies are worth having, if only because otherwise one's stable of economists won't cooperate, has been lost.<<

Or is it that this political manifesto was written and signed in a rush to cover up a possible "Blue Chip lie" scandal? I wished I knew a little more about the exact timing of these two events...

In the mean time, American consumers don't seem to share the optimism of "Republican economists":
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/25/business/25CND-ECON.html?tntemail1
Quote:
Still, the readings on what consumers expect in the near-term future were not reassuring: the percentage of those surveyed who expect their incomes to increase six months from now fell to their lowest level since the Conference Board began collecting the data in *1967*. And the component of the confidence index that tracks consumers' present situation fell to 61.6 in February, its lowest level since November 1993.

Tout va tres bien, Madame la Marquise, tout va tres bien, tout va tres bien...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on February 26, 2003 09:27 AM

The concern with Mankiw, I guess, is that his name
has been bandied about as a potential replacement
for when Hubbard returns ro Columbia. Has he
signed the letter knowing that he couldn't join
the administration if he hadn't? (Just what we
need: another administration economist with a
textbook trail!) It is certainly instructive to
see what names are not attached to the letter.
We have Prescott but not Kydland. We don't have
Lucas or Sargent or Barro. Perhaps Barro -- whose
recent pronouncements on the Bush plan are unknown
to me -- doesn't want to be associated with a
Ricardian equivalence interest rate story when he
knows full well that the conditions for Ricardian
equivalence are summarily violated by the
administration plan.

Posted by: Malcolm on February 26, 2003 10:52 AM

"Seldom right, never in doubt" is the unofficial motto of the Bush Administration. I used to ask myself when are these guys going to get their acts together and devise a cohesive, equitable economic policy. Now I can't wait for the 2004 elections! "Where have you gone Robert Rubin, A nation turns its lonely eyes to you, woo woo woo"

Posted by: Russell on February 26, 2003 12:54 PM

>>Or is it that this political manifesto was written and signed in a rush to cover up a possible "Blue Chip lie" scandal? I wished I knew a little more about the exact timing of these two events...<<

ArgMax helps me reject my hypothesis at:
http://www.argmax.com/mt_blog/archive/000321.php#000321

So, apparently the Blue Chip lie dates back to last Thursday (the 20th):
http://www.newsday.com/business/local/newyork/ny-e3142018feb23.story
whereas the Republican Economists' Letter dates back all the way to 02-12:
http://www.ustreas.gov/press/releases/js28.htm

Now, why did Ari Fleischer and Bush refer to the Blue-Chip economists with respect to the allegded endorsements by "top-economists" while they already had in their hand the Republican economists' letter??? Is the cost of lying so low in their mind that it's not even worth chosing to say the truth even if it doesn't make any difference for the sake of their argument??? Or is it that they themselves didn't find the signatories of the letter impressive enough? :)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on February 27, 2003 03:57 PM

Perhaps a more sensible understanding of Rubinomic failure would be helpful;

http://www.cse.org/informed/issues_template.php/1213.htm

When you start to connect the dots of private financial excess to the mongering over the public balance sheet (balanced budgets or worse, surplus) you will conclude your policy goals are part of the problem not the solution.

"Fiscal responsibility" is a code word for raping private resources and pretending it is for the public "good". The 90's were clearly more excessive and debt driven than the 80's as the easy example and the myopia over federal deficits is economically ignorant but more likely politically biased.

Posted by: BRubin on March 6, 2003 02:25 PM

Some more debunking of the nonsense found here;

http://www.clubforgrowth.org/articles/030304.php

Posted by: BRubin on March 7, 2003 12:49 PM

Some more debunking of the nonsense found here;

http://www.clubforgrowth.org/articles/030304.php

Posted by: BRubin on March 7, 2003 12:51 PM

Some more debunking of the nonsense found here;

http://www.clubforgrowth.org/articles/030304.php

Posted by: BRubin on March 7, 2003 12:55 PM

Some more debunking of the nonsense found here;

http://www.clubforgrowth.org/articles/030304.php

Posted by: BRubin on March 7, 2003 12:58 PM

Some more debunking of the nonsense found here;

http://www.clubforgrowth.org/articles/030304.php

Posted by: BRubin on March 7, 2003 01:00 PM

a lot of arrogant immature college students on this board making dismissive and high-brow remarks about people more successfull than they - and most pathetically ignited by an immature remark by DeLong himself.

I guess if an economist wants to be thought of as distinguished or 'great', he has to trash on other economists.

Only in you people's minds does a person HAVE to have a PhD to be called an economist. (but I guess a lifetime of studying economics or studying and practicing economics as a profession doesn't count)

Posted by: Jeff Chapin on March 16, 2003 10:21 PM

You are right. It doesn't count. In the modern world, you are a fake if you call yourself an economist but lack a PhD and/or have not even demonstrated you have the skills to complete an econ PhD program (it doesn't even have to be a PhD in econ -- how about Operations Research or a business school PhD or math PhD). In other words, phonies like Donald Luskin and Ben Stein, are practicing without a license. Likewise, I would not go to an unlicensed dentist or a doctor without medical training. However, a fake economist can often be more dangerous than a fake doctor. Doctors treat individuals. But the advice of an economist affects large groups and often entire countries. An unqualified crank can have disastrous results.

Posted by: Bobby on April 19, 2003 05:47 AM
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