Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rant against liberals who rant that Obama is a centrist...

Recently, there's been a lot of liberal rage against Obama

So, I've long been critical of the Obama administration's economic policy, but there is one thing to know -- first off, there aren't actually all that many liberal economists, and even fewer with the stature to be Presidential advisers. Yes, there's Stiglitz and Krugman, and Brad DeLong, but, to my knowledge, none of them came down on the right side of Bernanke's fateful reconfirmation. Obama's choice to go with a team including Romer, Summers, Geithner, Austan Goolsbee, and Peter Orszag was a choice for Democratic economists with some sharp (or very!) sharp CVs (plus Jared Bernstein...). (How many of us have got "tenured at Harvard in our mid-20s" on our resumes?) Obama himself is not an economist and couldn't possibly have known about the Dark Ages economics has sadly fallen into the past few decades... And Summers published some extremely populist Op-Eds in 2009, rants about Bush Administration tax cuts and inequality, the kind of thing no liberal would have any qualms about, with an explicit eye toward appealing to candidate Obama.

I think that says Summers thinks Obama is a liberal. And I think it also makes it a touch more difficult to blame Obama for what were the key mistakes -- the reappointing of Ben Bernanke (which was supported by both DeLong and Krugman), the feet-draggging on the FOMC appointments, and the small stimulus. Obama deferred to the "experts". The experts turned out to be medeival priests on the key issues, even though these are not low-IQ, unqualified people. Then there's health care -- Obama did not give Summers control over health care, and the constraint on getting a more liberal health care bill came in the Senate, not from the White House.

Point is there just aren't that many doors President Obama could have knocked on to get competent advice on all three of these issues. And there are very, very few economists over the age of 35 who are ever worth listening to. More liberals need to get Economics Ph.D.'s instead of Anthropology or History Ph.D.'s if they want to shape policy (that's why I switched from Poly Sci/Law to econ), and we need to have more liberals who've got "Goldman Sachs VP" on their resume as well...


  1. I must respectfully disagree that the "solution" is "liberal" economists with young academic tenure or a Goldman Sachs VP on their CV. Quite honestly, I don't think such an outcome is possible.

    There is a REASON there are no liberals with those sorts of creds. I mean, can you even imagine an Institutionalist getting tenure at Harvard? I once asked Lester Thurow, who was giving a lecture in Northfield MN at Carleton College's ongoing Veblen-Clark lecture series, whether he could name a school that would grant a Ph.D. in economics to Thorstein Veblen is he were to come back to life with the same belief set he expressed in his writings.

    Thurow wrinkled that magnificent brow of his and said, "None that I know of."

    Think about that. Thorstein Veblen was easily one of the great geniuses to walk planet earth. His "Theory of the Leisure Class" has been in continuous publication since 1899. He was Albert Einstein's (yeah, THAT Albert Einstein) favorite social scientist (and believed him to be a REAL scientist). etc. etc. etc.

    And Lester fricken Thurow could NOT think of a school that would give TBV a freaking Ph.D. in economics! There is a REASON the economics profession has become a disgrace to the human race--the profession was taken over by religious nuts. I am sorry, there is no other way to describe someone like Larry Summers.

    Just remember, Paul Krugman got his first public attention by winning the John Bates Clark prize as this up and coming conservative. When I was in school, we didn't even talk to right wing nuts like him. And HE is now considered a "lefty."

    And you will know that the economics profession has righted its ship when guys like you start winning the prizes and getting tenure at 27 or whatever. I am not sure the Goldman Sachs v.p. is desirable unless we see them enact a corporate rule that executive bonuses can be no larger than their investments in green technologies. Right now, the place is like the epicenter of pure evil. I cannot imagine working their without losing one's soul--I mean, you cannot point to any exceptions, can you?

    Good luck man--I am not sure you understand what you are up against but I certainly admire the bravery of youth. If you don't want to change the world at 25, you probably aren't going to do it. And the world certainly needs a bunch of changing!

  2. "Just remember, Paul Krugman got his first public attention by winning the John Bates Clark prize as this up and coming conservative."

    The JBC is not given for being conservative.

  3. Ummm...We have too many Dems who are the Spawn of the Vampire squid.

    Hell, we would have too many if it were just Bob Rubin.

  4. lol, great comments...

    Still, though, I once TA'd for an anthropology course, which was great, but the other TAs were History or Anthro Ph.D.'s, very liberal, and their attitude was that they wouldn't want to touch Economics w/ a 10 foot pole. They were too "pure" to study something so corporatist.

    But, given that it affects the lives of millions of people, and that Presidents seem to be surrounded by Economists, I couldn't really quite see where they are coming from...

    I'm not saying liberals don't get screwed over on publishing and tenure decisions (hence the anonymity of this blog and Krugman & Stiglitz's late career move to the left), b/c I'm sure I'll encounter plenty of that, but I'm saying that a big part of this is self-selection out of these key fields by liberals for what amount to cultural reasons.

    Also, the good news is that I would suspect that the current generation of Ph.D. students are further to the left than was the case a generation or two ago...