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March 29, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Howard Kurtz Edition)

Wonkette notes a typical Kurtzianism:

Wonkette - College Faculties Infested with Liberals: Howard Kurtz reports: 'College faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined, a new study says.' Or maybe that should have been, Howard Kurtz interprets. Here's an actual excerpt from the new study, which is based on a study from six years ago: 'The 1999 study found 72% of faculty to the left of center, including 18% who were strongly left...'

So, fewer than one out of five evil liberal professors actually identify themselves as strongly left? Does Kurtz actually know any 'conspiratorial conservatives'? Believe us, Howard, they can conspire way more imaginatively than that! Once again, the insular nature of the liberal MSM reveals itself...


UPDATE: Ezra Klein throws down the gauntlet:

Ezra Klein: Why Professors Tilt Left: "it's time to stop the head-scratching. Being a libertarian is perfectly fine, as is being an economic conservative and a neocon. But the weird merging of the Christian Right, the Neocons, and Karl Rove's theories that's currently directing the Republican party makes no sense at all. It's an administration where the President believe the 'jury's still out' on how the earth was formed and the Senate Majority Leader -- a trained doctor! -- thinks AIDS can be transmitted through tears (to say nothing of the House Majority Leader who couldn't go to Vietnam because those damn minorities had gobbled up all the spots).

And so people who care about their party making sense shy away from Bush. Sometime they find more elements of their beliefs in him than in the Democrats, and so they pull the lever for the 'R', but the more that intellectual coherence matters, the less they make that bargain. And so as you climb up the rungs of academia, where internal coherency and intellectual rigor become values to live and die by, you find fewer Republicans. Simple as that...

Ezra is completely right.

A good deal of it, in economics at least, is that you simply cannot dare not--not if you want to look others in the eye (or yourself) adopt the line of the Bush administration. Consider what I was writing about yesterday--White House Social Security point man and "substance" person Charles Blahous, and his claims like:

BLAHOUS: It's also not a problem that, under the current system, we can grow our way out of. The current system is designed so that benefits grow as fast as wages and the economy grow. And what this means is that if the economy does grow faster than projected, then wages will grow faster than projected; we will collect higher revenues, to be sure, and we might be able to push off that 2018 date, or 2042 date by a few years, but we would also owe more benefits as a consequence of the higher growth.

No economist--no real academic economist--would dare to endorse this. The closest anyone comes is the Council of Economic Advisers, in its "Three Questions About Social Security", which states:

While economic growth makes it easier to sustain some government spending programs, this does not apply to Social Security, because Social Security benefits themselves increase with earnings.

But it immediately pulls back and corrects itself in the next paragraph (emphases added):

Some commentators have wondered whether the Social Security Trustees have underestimated future productivity growth and, thereby, future economic growth. If productivity grows faster than expected, the economy will indeed grow more rapidly, as will worker wages. But this won’t provide that much help to Social Security. As workers’ wages rise, their payments to Social Security go up, providing a short-term benefit to the program. However, their future benefits increase as well. Thus, while there is a short-term benefit to Social Security from economic growth, the long term benefit is relatively small. It is almost like running on a treadmill—-getting ahead requires more than is reasonable to expect. Specifically, the indexation of initial Social Security benefits to wages means that increased benefits offset much of the higher revenue from faster wage growth...

Note the "that much," the "long-term benefit is relatively small," the "almost," and the "much." What these mean is this: "Given current benefit and funding structures, an 0.1 percentage point increase in the long-run growth rate of productivity reduces the 75-year deficit number by about 0.1 percentage point; an 0.1 percentage point increase in the long-run rate of population growth due to higher net immigration reduces the 75-year deficit number by about 0.3 percentage points." Are these effects "small"? Does it mean that faster growth wouldn't help? Put it this way: an 0.6% markup of annual productivity and an 0.4% markup of annual population growth due to higher immigration would together wipe out the 75-year deficit.

It's acceptable in academia to be a Democrat. It's acceptable to be a libertarian. It's simply embarrassing to be a Republican.

Posted by DeLong at March 29, 2005 08:22 PM