February 05, 2003
Why Are We Ruled by These Fools? Department

Don't these guys ever even consider telling the truth about what they are doing? I mean, just as a theoretical option...

"We will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents, and other generations..." (George W. Bush, 2004 State of the Union Address)

Posted by DeLong at February 05, 2003 04:04 PM | Trackback

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And the war on Iraq (and occupation / nation-building in) is not even factored in...

This can only makes sense if you put yourself in the mindset of someone who thinks the federal government is the worse thing that happened to the US, besides the legalization of abortion.

And where does the democratic mandate come from? If there is any, and I doubt there'd be a real one if Americans were told the truth, it's the payoff of decades of vilification of the government.

But there is something that worries me even more. Say the red line on the graph gets close to reality, what is supposed to remain of the world financial markets when the line starts dipping at an accelerating rate, and the federal government gets ever closer to bankruptcy? Isn't that simply going to be the end of the world as we know it???

This Administration's record is starting to look increasingly like that of their buddies at Enron. Weren't they quite popular before their collapse? And what happened with their employees' lifetime savings? Look at what that did to the markets, and raise to the power 2, and I think we get an idea of what we're heading for.

Where is the whistleblower? This needs to be undone NOW, not in one, and even less, 5 years.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on February 5, 2003 04:21 PM

"This can only makes sense if you put yourself in the
mindset of someone who thinks the federal government is the worse thing that happened to the US, besides the legalization of abortion."


Or, you can just look at Bush's business record. He gets in trouble, then gets bailed out. It's worked for him so far...

Posted by: Jon H on February 5, 2003 04:25 PM

"This can only makes sense if you put yourself in the
mindset of someone who thinks the federal government is the worse thing that happened to the US, besides the legalization of abortion."


Or, you can just look at Bush's business record. He gets in trouble, then gets bailed out. It's worked for him so far...

Posted by: Jon H on February 5, 2003 04:26 PM

Why are we ruled by these fools?

Because people who could serve as leaders to rally public opinion against the president fail to do what the might.

We have come as a people to think that freedom is free, that it only requires voting and contributing to candidates. But it is not free. It requires speaking out, protesting... and, from time to time, the sacrifice of life itself.

We all know the trajectory of how this crisis came about. "For the good of the country", Senate Democrats failed to fully expose Iran-Contra, emboldening those who employ illegal methods to subvert the Constitution. The Democrats failed enact campaign finance reform; helped by substantial violations of campaign finance law, the Republicans took control of the Congress. The Democrats failed to defend Clinton and expose the perversion of the legal system by Kenneth Starr, opening the door to a Constitutional crisis and the weakening of the Democratic Party. Emboldened by having had none of their crimes punished, the Republicans stole the presidential election of 2000, using illegal purges of the voter rolls, illegal military ballots, and outright electoral fraud. The Democrats rolled over and played dead "for the good of the country".

The crises of today are clearly rooted in the failures to stand tall yesterday. And the remedy is to stand tall now: expose the deceit and crimes of the Bush Administration. When the flag is being misused for political purposes, refuse to rally 'round. Speak out to friends and neighbors. Tell appropriate Democratic politicians that they do not deserve to hold office. Refuse to contribute. In every way, make it clear that this will not stand.

Our failure to do so is why we are ruled by these fools.

Posted by: Charles Utwater II on February 5, 2003 04:56 PM

Professor Delong,

Have you thought of changing the title of your book to Slouching Towards Calamity?

Not more than three years ago, I was generally so optimistic about the future of the world economy. Of course, it was hard to foresee that America would get to be ruled by a bunch of irresponsible crooks, ooops, leaders.

A reminder of how important the indiocycratic quality of individuals is to happy history? Somehow, I think it has more systematically to do with the public's apparent inability to judge how important good economic policy is for their own well-being.

It's only when the voters start to feel the pain that they seem to realize its importance, and then they forget again and start to get about bj's in the Oral Office, Confederate pride, and all these fundamental matters...

Are we incapable of social learning from history, and thus doomed to repeat the same collective mistakes again and again? Maybe, we should seriously think about introducing economics into the American high school curriculum. Who knows, that might help?

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on February 5, 2003 05:01 PM

"start to get" => "start to care". sorry.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on February 5, 2003 05:06 PM

"We will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents, and other generations"

I hope he isn't planning on being the last president, or that there will be no more generations.

Posted by: Jon H on February 5, 2003 05:41 PM

As in: apres moi, le deluge?

Hrm.

Posted by: Canadian Reader on February 5, 2003 06:18 PM

Precisely. Louis XV is widely acknowledged to have been the most corrupt and profligate king in France's history. His idiot son and his subjects had to suffer the consequences.

Posted by: andres on February 5, 2003 07:59 PM

2003 State of the Union, surely.

I think this is an economists' thing: Budgets get released a year in advance, States of the Union don't.... :-)

(And yeah, Apres moi, le deluge. Maybe Bush figures that we'll be wiped out by global warming anyway, so we don't need to plan for the future. I found myself mumbling about the End Times the other day, and I'm Jewish.)

Posted by: Matt Weiner on February 6, 2003 06:39 AM

Meanwhile, in today's Times: "U.S. Economy in Worst Hiring Slump in 20 Years."

Isn't it a funny moment to be worrying about whether the projected deficit for 2020 is too big, when today's deficit is clearly much too small?

It's not like we'll never get another chance to amend the tax code...

Posted by: JW Mason on February 6, 2003 09:37 AM

That's -17.5% of GDP in 2060, not 2050 as the graph shows. Not that it matters much, but the graph doesn't look as bad. Note that the outlook in 1996 was much, much worse...

Posted by: Scott Brown on February 6, 2003 10:01 AM

"Isn't it a funny moment to be worrying about whether the projected deficit for 2020 is too big, when today's deficit is clearly much too small?"

Fine point. But, read the NYTimes further and you will discover that the Administration stimulus program has almost no stimulus to it for 2003. The stimulus seems to be to offer as many tax deductions as possible for 2004 and beyond to the wealthiest of American families.

Perhaps there will be a stimulus in 2004, but the long term supply side nonsense to the Administration budget will present an ever growing problem thereafter.

Perhaps, again, there will be a stimulus in 2003 with a 50% tax deduction on the cost of a Lincoln Navigator, but, good grief, is this economics?

Posted by: anne on February 6, 2003 11:16 AM

Anne,

I don't disagree, but that's orthogonal, at best, to the argument of the original post. In other words, two things are true:

1. If we are to reach anything like full employment, we need a larger deficit than the Bush administration proposes for the next year, or two or three -- a period when Bush will actually be in office.

2. If the Bush administration had the power to set tax policy once and for all for the next 50 years, we would find that, in a few decades, the federal budget deficit would become inconveniently large.

What bugs me is, why are smart people like Brad DeLong so much more concerned about (2) than about (1)? Why isn't even a fraction of the energy that goes into criticizing Bush for not offering a balanced budget now (when deficits are appropriate) or in 25 years (over which he is powerless) instead going into criticism over the failure to extend unemployment benefits, or offer fiscal relief to the states, or any other genuine stimulus?

Posted by: JW Mason on February 6, 2003 11:56 AM

The point is NOT to criticize the Administration for a budget that will add to the deficit, rather to note that the budget does not address stimulating employment. Rather the Administration is offering tax relief to the "rich" in the false guise of an immediate economic stimulus.

How does ending the tax deduction for normal IRAs and offering instead tax free IRA's of up to 15,000 dollars per person per year stilumate the economy in 2003? What it will do is create an emormous revenue drain several years out. Though I might like to shelter 30,000 dollars a year from taxes in addition to my retirement plan, I find offering such a plan completely irresponsible unless the point is really to undermine Social Security.

Posted by: anne on February 6, 2003 01:04 PM

I wonder how is it that the deficit is supposed to go so smartly down after this year. I suspect that the assumption is that the nominal growth of all expenditures except for social security, which is indexed, can be arrested, or that the medical inflation can be stopped.

The extrapolation of trends gives much grimmer picture. The first trend to notice is the evolution of revenue predictions. The second, the unfinished program of tax cuts. The third, the thirst of security/military complex. Then we have medical inflation. My point is that deficit prediction that merely calculates the effect of the current law, optimistic growth projection etc. are misleading, unless the assumptions are spelled out.

Posted by: Piotr Berman on February 6, 2003 03:45 PM

"The point is NOT to criticize the Administration for a budget that will add to the deficit, rather to note that the budget does not address stimulating employment."

That may be your point, Anne, and it's a good one. But it is not the point made by the chart in the post we're both commenting on, or by almost anything else Prof. DeLong has posted here about the Bush budget...

Posted by: JW Mason on February 7, 2003 12:53 PM
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