Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The perils of being clueless

Paul Waldman--formerly of Media Matters and now a "big gun" at the American Prospect--has authored a piece at the latter with perhaps the most ironic title in the history of political commentary: Why "Knowing How the Economy Works" Is Not Enough. The central thrust of the piece is that Romney has no special knowledge about the economy that could--if he were President--turn it around, that if the things he's campaigning on would actually lead to sustained growth, Obama would have already done those things. In Waldman's words:
But if there were a magic key to unlock spectacular growth and widely shared prosperity, you'd think we would have found it by now. There hasn't been a president in decades, the current one included, who didn't have lots of businesspeople working in his administration. And Barack Obama talks to corporate leaders all the time. If Romney knows something they don't, he hasn't told us what it is. If you read through his economic plan, you'll find that it contains the same things Republicans always advocate: lower taxes, reduced regulations, free trade, and so on...
Perhaps he plans to unveil this remarkable insight once the election is over; if so, one can hope that as a patriotic American he'll share it with the country even if he loses. Because even if it involved some policies that conservatives like, you can bet that President Obama would be happy to take the bargain if it would deliver something like the sustained 4 percent growth George W. Bush promises. If you really could create a humming economy just by cutting taxes for the wealthy and creating some "Reagan Economic Zones" (yes, that's something Romney proposes, though he doesn't say much about what it means), Obama would do it.
Understand? According to Waldman, if these conservative/libertarian prescriptions for improving the economy actually worked, Obama would follow them...and apparently hard-core progressives like Waldman would be okay with such a move. Dwell on that for a moment. According to Waldman--who carries a doctorate in communications, by the way--Obama has no ideological objections to decreasing taxes on the wealthy, to freeing up capital by removing regulations, or allowing freer, more open markets. Obama only has pragmatic objections to these things, because--again, according to Waldman--they won't be effective.

Of course, we already know that the reverse of many of these things doesn't work. Have the historic levels of new regulations led to pronounced growth? Of course not.  How about increased government participation in markets? Nope. And just for fun, the regulation growth chart again:

My previous and still applicable conclusion from that piece:
Regardless, the chief point remains: if all of this stuff was of such a benefit, why doesn't the economy always grow? In fact, if this were the case, logically the more onerous regulations were, the more economic growth there would be. Right? They're a funny people, these liberals and progressives. Aren't they?
Thus, the irony of Waldman's title: he clearly doesn't have a clue how the economy works. But he refuses to let that get in his way.

And his premise is just so laughable, it's difficult to imagine this was a serious piece. Does he really believe Obama would surrender his own deeply-held core beliefs and betray the people who put him into office? What of Waldman's own beliefs in this regard? Judging from this piece, one would have to assume Waldman would have no problem backing any policies that spur growth, regardless of potential secondary consequences. Growth seems to be king. Yet, a scant five years ago, Waldman was bemoaning the treatment of American workers at the hands of their employers.

Waldman, in short, was--and still is--a hard-core progressive in the mold of Robert Reich (one of the founders of the American Prospect). In this latest column, he openly misrepresents himself, his own positions, and the President. Economic growth--for him, like Obama--is a secondary consideration, trumped always by concerns for the mythical end of "social justice."

The question is, why is he hiding the truth? Why not be honest and stake his claim? The answer: as bad as things were for the economy in the last years of Bush, they've gotten worse under Obama, even as the latter has succeeded in achieving various policy initiatives in service to his ideology. There has still been no real recovery. And it's no longer feasible to blame the previous administration. The idea that conservative/libertarian thinkers have a contrary approach which may work is something that cannot be tolerated by people like Waldman and Reich (who, again, don't understand the economy anyway). Thus, Waldman attempts to negate such a possibility via an absurd and logically untenable argument: such a contrary approach can't work because if it did, we'd be all for it.

On top of all of this, Waldman's subtitle for the piece is also deliciously ironic: The presidency is not a technocratic position. Someone better tell that to Obama, because so far that's all it's been to him. As I've said, Obama is very much the king of the technocrats.

Waldman's final words:
Romney may "know how the economy works" in certain ways. But that knowledge isn't enough.
Assuming that's true, I think I still prefer such a situation to that of having a President who doesn't have a clue how the economy works.

Cheers, all.

1 comment:

  1. non-sensical, ironic, progressive insanity reinforced.