Monday, June 28, 2010

Wishful Thinking as a Political Program

Macro-economics is a matter of figuring how an unfathomably complex economic system works. Competing macro-economic theories have enough give in their intellectual joints to enable reputable economists confronted by the same facts to embrace inconsistent positions in perfectly good faith. So how should I know what the best fiscal policy is given our present predicament?

Not being an economist, my best guesses aren’t worthy of anybody else’s attention. The best macro-economists’ guesses count for something—indeed nothing in this connection counts for more. But they don’t know what the best fiscal policy is either.  And anyone paying attention, knows that they don't know.

So what moves Theda Skocpol (a good political sociologist, but no macro-economist) to say this (my italics, her caps):

“President Obama and the Democrats need to seize the mantle of the national interest in ROBUST ECONOMIC GROWTH. Polls show the public wants more spending for jobs and growth, that people care a lot more about jobs than about deficits. Economic growth is the best way to shrink the deficit anyway.  Bold[l]y propose steps that would actually produce jobs and growth -- and proclaim loudly and all the time that Republicans are cynically obstructing the recovery for their own political gain. Spell it out, so that even the most casually engaged American understands what the Republicans are doing with their obstruction. And stop with the wimpy language of "compassion" and the murk[y] efforts at backrooms "compromises" with folks (like Snowe and Collins) that have no incentive whatsoever to make a deal, anyway. They are just playing a delaying game.”
Got that? Because liberals and conservative alike know what steps “would actually produce jobs and growth,” there can be only one explanation for Republicans' failure to consent to another round of economic stimulus (again, her caps): “REPUBLICANS ARE SABOTAGING NATIONAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY AND PREVENTING JOB GROWTH, JUST FOR POLITICAL ADVANTAGE.”

I don’t know what would discredit Skopol more: really being that oblivious to intellectual uncertainty or thinking it's politically adroit to pretend to be that oblivious.

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