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February 08, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Mark Schmitt Tells Nick Kristof Where to Get Off Edition)

Nick Kristof says more stupid things, which make unbiased observers wonder why he holds onto his New York Times real estate. What pictures does he have of whom, when, doing what?

In response, Mark Schmitt says a bunch of very smart things:

The Decembrist: Does What Democrats Said About Social Security in 2000 Matter?: It's obvious that Nick Kristof pilfered the special stupid pills from Robert Samuelson's medicine cabinet, the ones that make you type 'both sides are equally irresponsible,' or 'neither party is willing to confront the real issues' over and over again.... Kristof makes much of the fact that Democrats of the late 1990s expressed greater concern about Social Security's future solvency and had more concrete proposals. The fact that 'even Bill Clinton' thought there was a problem in the long-term financing of Social Security is a rhetorical staple of the Samuelson/Kristof axis....

It is true that five years ago, the idea that the long-term financing problems of Social Security were a relatively minor concern was a distinctly out-of-the-mainstream view.... History has been kind to Mark [Weisbrot's] and Dean [Baker]'s view that the midrange assumptions of the Social Security trustees were unduly pessimistic.

Going back to that period, around 2000, what were those Democrats thinking?... [T]he problem did seem worse at the time.... And the problem was then much worse relative to other problems.... But there was another reason.... They worried that the hard-won budget surplus would be quickly squandered on new promises. They knew that the budget surplus was a tentative, doubtful thing. They knew that demographics would catch up with it, and they knew that both the Congressional Budget Office and OMB projections were based, as they are today on unrealistic assumptions, such as that Congress would restrain discretionary spending or that the Alternative Minimum Tax would continue to bring in ever-growing revenues.... These are the cautions that reached Clinton's ears... please please don't treat the whole surplus like free money.

An important point about these warnings: They were absolutely equal opportunity, non-partisan warnings. They were targetted at Bush's assumption that the surplus could be given away in tax cuts, but they were equally directed at Democrats such as Bill Bradley, in his presidential campaign that year, who were stretching to be able to pay for an ambitous health care plan.... [T]he most responsible outside analysts, as well as those inside the Clinton administration like Gene Sperling and Bob Rubin, understood the risk,

Posted by DeLong at February 8, 2005 07:34 PM