July 15, 2003

How Dumb Does National Review Think We Are?

Why does National Review think we are so dumb? And just how dumb does National Review think that we are?

Larry Kudlow on George W. Bush and Supply-Side Presidents on NRO Financial: ...For the economic historians among you, the administrations of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, guided by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, constituted the second supply-side presidency.... The point of all this is simple: Prior to George W. Bush, all these other supply-side presidencies led directly to lengthy periods of strong economic growth and low unemployment.

Does National Review really hope that nobody notices that Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon's principles guided Republican presidents' economic policies not just through the presidencies of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge but also... Herbert Hoover? Does it really hope that nobody notices that Mellon carries a large share of responsibility not just of the 1920s boom but also of that Little Unpleasantness in the 1930s? The National Review must think its readers are dumb as s*** for them to not remember that the order of the presidents goes, "Harding, Coolidge, Hoover."

(Note that this is not the low point, not even of this column. The low point is the beginning sentence: "The liberal banshees on the presidential campaign trail may be technically right that so far the Bush tax cuts have not produced a vigorous recovery." "May": does that mean that one must keep oneself open to the possibility that the past year and a half has been one of "vigorous recovery" after all? "Technically": does that mean that we have fallen short of a "vigorous recovery" in a technical sense only, that substantively recovery has been vigorous?)

I'm going to start leafing through my back issues of the Nation in search of anything as bizarre as this from the National Review.

Posted by DeLong at July 15, 2003 05:47 PM | TrackBack


Remember NRO's likely audience. We're talking about people who likely wouldn't know any better, who think (after they've read the article) that they've become privy to information most people don't have.

The whole point is to sling as much misinformation as possible. Some of it is bound to take root out there...

Posted by: Jonathan on July 15, 2003 06:32 PM

Of course, this stuff really is pretty out there, even for the typical right winger -- one suspects that they're rapidly crackpoting their way into irrelevance.

Posted by: Jonathan on July 15, 2003 06:36 PM

Kudlow is clearly confused. The Bush fiscal policy is not responding to the ideology scripted by Larry Lindsey and supply side true believers. If the facts don't support the ideology then the facts must be wrong.

Good creationists can always come up with twisted reasons why the fossil record exists, why carbon dating is wrong and a host of twisted logic that places the age of the earth at precisely 6000 years. The Bible doesn't lie. The majority of scientists have their facts wrong.

Supply side economists are like a religious cult. Please don't confuse the true believers with the facts. Get back you satanic secular economists. Spend an hour actively watching the 700 club (pray that those 3 evil supreme court justices retire) and Kudlow's column will start making a lot more sense.

Posted by: bakho on July 15, 2003 07:23 PM

Kudlow also states:

"The combined effect of this tax relief reduces capital costs and raises investment returns by over 40 percent — making it the largest investment tax-cut program since the Civil War income tax was repealed in 1872.

Yes indeed, Ulysses S. Grant was America’s first supply-side president (he also took us back on the gold standard."

No mention is made of the distributive effects of these "investment tax-cuts" as described by Steven Weisman in his book The Great Tax Wars:

"The rampant corruption in Washington led to a reform movement within the Republican Party, which joined the Democrats to nominate Horace Greeley for a quixotic run at the White House in 1872. By then, the income tax was gone. Its abolition had one more important and lasting effect. That was to guarantee that the federal debt, which had been incurred to preserve the union for all citizens, would now have to be retired largely by the working classes and farmers. The fact that the American debt - its bonds, notes and other forms of loans - was owned by the wealthiest Americans meant that taxpayers of modest means were working to pay off the investments of the richest taxpayers. As the tax historian Sidney Ratner notes, the Civil War debt "became one of the most powerful instruments in America for the enrichment of the rentier class, the leading capitalists." For the next forty years, farmers, workers, small merchants and other working-class Americans carried this debt burden, to the benefit of the rich."

(This almost reads as if to save time Weisman lifted verbiage from one of Kevin Phillip's early 90's books and backdated the events for his 19th century tome)

Posted by: Russ Hicks on July 15, 2003 07:58 PM

Surely most intelligent people have practically no idea of arcana like the sequence of minor bygone US Presidents, since that is only of interest within the USA?

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on July 15, 2003 08:21 PM

Well, given the longevity of supply-side views, and the grim fact of the Bush Presidency, and the fact that Kudlow's got his own popular show on CNBC, etc. they think we the American people are dumb as s***.

And they're right.

Posted by: John Thullen on July 15, 2003 08:30 PM

bakho, I know that this is going to come as a complete shock to you, but good creationists can believe in creation through evolution. It takes a less than literal interpretation of the book of Genesis but the order of creation works out quite well. As far as most of us humble idiots can tell, in the beginning the universe was "formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep".

As you are no doubt aware, there are limits to what we know and there are very likely limits to what we can know via science. Tellingly, most scientists believe the universe is made up of something we can only measure indirectly right now. In the absence of evidence to support them, it was once popular to view the Biblical history as complete myth. Evidence supports many of the late period stories quite well these days. What says we won't find evidence to more explicitly support other Biblical claims? For others, perhaps literal interpretations are wrong? We will all find out in the end :).

I know that you are pointing at the knee-jerk reactionaries, but you are painting with a very broad brush. Might I suggest you use "knee-jerk literalist creationists" in the future?

Posted by: Stan on July 16, 2003 07:36 AM

Kudlow says the Bush tax cuts are only 2 months old. We know his knowledge of dating is a little off so maybe he meant the tax cuts are only 2 years old. Or did he forget about the 2001 tax cut?

Posted by: Hal McClure on July 16, 2003 09:11 AM

Kudlow says the Bush tax cuts are only 2 months old. We know his knowledge of dating is a little off so maybe he meant the tax cuts are only 2 years old. Or did he forget about the 2001 tax cut?

Posted by: Hal McClure on July 16, 2003 09:14 AM

Since the Administration tax cut of Spring 2001, there have been more than 3.1 million corporate jobs lost. Of course, Larry Kudlow is a knightly authority and we are less than pawns.

Posted by: jd on July 16, 2003 09:21 AM

Sorry about the topic drift, but I think that Stan's preferred term, "knee-jerk literalist creationists", has been entirely superceded by the public proponents of Creationism, who have made their movement synonymous with knee-jerk literalism. It's a shame for sane, reality-accepting people who can accept a non-literal reading of Genesis as the Truth, but the battle's been lost, just as sincere communists long ago lost their fight to have their beliefs considered independent of Leninism.
I might point out, though (not to pick a fight), but Genesis does have flying creatures predating (if only by a day ;) ) land-based creatures, which doesn't comport with anything biologists know. Aside from that, it's certainly a lot more realistic imagining than, say, Yggdrassil.

Posted by: JRoth on July 16, 2003 09:32 AM

20 years ago - I was asked to discuss some supply side paper by Richard Rahn. His spin that the 1964 tax cut was supply-side was easily rebutted as his text kept including quotes from the CEA about multipliers and aggregate demand. But he almost threw me with his references to the tax cuts in the 1920's. As a young pup, I had never looked at data before the Great Depression. Fortunately, I had Robert Gordon's macro text which had data back to 1900 or so. It seemed that unmployment was high just before these two tax cuts - and these two GOP Presidents initiated Keynesian aggregate demand management even before the General Theory was written. I find it amazing that these two Presidents understood this point even before Keynes made it - but Rahn et al. still don't understand the point.

Posted by: Hal McClure on July 16, 2003 09:39 AM

But I know at least two PhDs in Economics from top 5 schools who SHOULD KNOW better and subscribe National Review. One of them is cynical about Kudlow and co, but believes it plays an important role. The other one - an econometrician to be sure - believes it verbatim and probably earns at least 150k/year teaching Econ in a top 10 school.

But not in my lifetime I will name them.

Posted by: econBras on July 16, 2003 10:01 AM

JRoth, I don't "accept a non-literal reading of Genesis as the Truth". I simply admit that I don't know. In context of the evidence available currently, a non-literal reading would easily make the only sense. Despite the amount and quality of evidence available though, I know that further evidence could change that position greatly. As I pointed out above, it has done so in the past. I also do not think the battle is lost vis-a-vis knee-jerk literalism. The focus of the Book lies elsewhere even for them.

Posted by: Stan on July 16, 2003 10:25 AM

"Kudlow is clearly confused. The Bush fiscal policy is not responding to the ideology scripted by Larry Lindsey and supply side true believers."

Is Lindsey a supply-sider? He's a good (if conservative) economist, and when he was on the FOMC in the late 1990s he was sounding alarms on asset bubbles.

Posted by: Tom on July 16, 2003 10:48 AM

Lindsey is a defender of supply side policies although labels don't completely fit anyone. Maybe being disowned by Jude Wanninski makes him no longer a supply sider.


Then again Wanninski was wrong about the stock bubble, too.

Posted by: bakho on July 16, 2003 01:38 PM

Wanninski seems bothered that Michael Boskin and John Taylor play a role in the White House. I wish these two economists would play a bigger role - especially Dr. Taylor. Wanninski also seems to be bothered with how Lawrence Lindsey does not suppor the Wanninski view of the world, but he really fails to tell the reader in what respect. I still view Lindsey as pretending that crowding-out does not exist while incentive effects are enormous - which is entirely consistent with Wanninski's misguided view of economics. Maybe I'm missing something in his essay but then he could have been more clear in the points he was trying to make.

Posted by: Hal McClure on July 16, 2003 03:43 PM

Everybody now, it's not Larry Kudlow it's Larry Crudlow because everuthing he says is ...
We'll you get the picture
As for his show I think a more appropriate title is Crudlow and Sycophant.

The real question is who funds these brains? Is there some trust fund kid who doesn't realise that 1% of his annual income goes to the AEI? Can these families be exposed? Shamed into dropping their support? I mean if some wealthy family was funding a communist journal that advocated the violent overthrow of the United States Government, that family would be exposed and shamed in the media. How are these far right economic journals any different. If anything they are more insideous because they achieve their destructive aims without firing a shot. All under the moral argument that it's for our own good. We're improving the world through our ideas!

Follow the money. Stop the flow.

Posted by: Scott McArthur on July 16, 2003 06:35 PM

I don't know about previous Republican administrations, but I do think it's impossible to support this particular administration without being either a dupe or a grifter. Or both.
Stan, are you suggesting that the Bible is correct while all other religious creation accounts are therefore wrong? And we were just lucky enough to be born in one of the globe's "right" regions? Or would you prefer to suggest that all creation accounts may be right, in a mystical way, none excluding the other? So Yggdrasil and Eden can coexist?
I'm all for tolerance of religious belief, as long as it isn't unipolar. I'm unsure of your position.

Posted by: John Isbell on July 16, 2003 08:35 PM

John, it isn't a preference choice. If you are trying to determine which way is North direction matters. If somebody is pointing East, it doesn't matter how anybody feels about it. It also doesn't matter how many or few are doing so. Tolerance doesn't mean that everybody is correct. It means that you won't kill them for being wrong :).

Posted by: Stan on July 17, 2003 06:04 AM

I want to add that I didn't mean to induce this much thread drift. My point was merely to trim Bakho's creationist brush.

I'm fairly certain that most politicians believe we are all dupes. Since we are all ignorance of much more than we know, they are right. The higher the time or money costs of good information, the dumber we get.

Posted by: Stan on July 17, 2003 06:32 AM


'Might I suggest you use "knee-jerk literalist creationists" in the future?'

In the discussions I've taken part in, the preferred term was "Young-Earth Creationists."

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on July 17, 2003 08:03 AM
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