Rarely has any one study had such an immediate impact on global policy. Usually, folks wait until a study is replicated and put through robust follow-up before any one takes research to heart. Reinhart & Rogoff (2010) basically played into the narrative of the plutocracy and what the ‘very serious people’ around the world wanted. So, its significant findings were taken very seriously before all those secondary tests of robustness and such were undertaken. Well, now we find out the wunderkind study that justified a lot of unnecessary austerity has some serious math mistakes. I’m still reading through all the criticisms but, as Krugman puts it “Holy Coding Error, Batman”! Let’s just call this some serious MATH FAIL!
The intellectual edifice of austerity economics rests largely on two academic papers that were seized on by policy makers, without ever having been properly vetted, because they said what the Very Serious People wanted to hear. One was Alesina/Ardagna on the macroeconomic effects of austerity, which immediately became exhibit A for those who wanted to believe in expansionary austerity. Unfortunately, even aside from the paper’s failure to distinguish between episodes in which monetary policy was available and those in which it wasn’t, it turned out that their approach to measuring austerity was all wrong; when the IMF used a measure that tracked actual policy, it turned out that contractionary policy was contractionary.
The other paper, which has had immense influence — largely because in the VSP world it is taken to have established a definitive result — was Reinhart/Rogoff on the negative effects of debt on growth. Very quickly, everyone “knew” that terrible things happen when debt passes 90 percent of GDP.
Some of us never bought it, arguing that the observed correlation between debt and growth probably reflected reverse causation. But even I never dreamed that a large part of the alleged result might reflect nothing more profound than bad arithmetic.
The best explanation of the problem that I’ve seen comes from Mike Konczal at RortyBomb.
In 2010, economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff released a paper, “Growth in a Time of Debt.” Their “main result is that…median growth rates for countries with public debt over 90 percent of GDP are roughly one percent lower than otherwise; average (mean) growth rates are several percent lower.” Countries with debt-to-GDP ratios above 90 percent have a slightly negative average growth rate, in fact.
This has been one of the most cited stats in the public debate during the Great Recession. Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget states their study “found conclusive empirical evidence that [debt] exceeding 90 percent of the economy has a significant negative effect on economic growth.” The Washington Post editorial board takes it as an economic consensus view, stating that “debt-to-GDP could keep rising — and stick dangerously near the 90 percent mark that economists regard as a threat to sustainable economic growth.”
Is it conclusive? One response has been to argue that the causation is backwards, or that slower growth leads to higher debt-to-GDP ratios. Josh Bivens and John Irons made this case at the Economic Policy Institute. But this assumes that the data is correct. From the beginning there have been complaints that Reinhart and Rogoff weren’t releasing the data for their results (e.g. Dean Baker). I knew of several people trying to replicate the results who were bumping into walls left and right – it couldn’t be done.
In a new paper, “Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff,” Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst successfully replicate the results. After trying to replicate the Reinhart-Rogoff results and failing, they reached out to Reinhart and Rogoff and they were willing to share their data spreadhseet. This allowed Herndon et al. to see how how Reinhart and Rogoff’s data was constructed.
They find that three main issues stand out. First, Reinhart and Rogoff selectively exclude years of high debt and average growth. Second, they use a debatable method to weight the countries. Third, there also appears to be a coding error that excludes high-debt and average-growth countries. All three bias in favor of their result, and without them you don’t get their controversial result.
Whenever you model a system, you have to make some assumptions going in. These assumptions–coupled with the coding error–basically show the statistician’s slight of hand. You can prove just about everything and anything with numbers if you manipulate the data enough. The UMAss-Amherst professor et al has really pulled the curtain away from the big green talking head this time. Here’s the abstract.
Herndon, Ash and Pollin replicate Reinhart and Rogoff and find that coding errors, selective exclusion of available data, and unconventional weighting of summary statistics lead to serious errors that inaccurately represent the relationship between public debt and GDP growth among 20 advanced economies in the post-war period. They find that when properly calculated, the average real GDP growth rate for countries carrying a public-debt-to-GDP ratio of over 90 percent is actually 2.2 percent, not -0:1 percent as published in Reinhart and Rogoff. That is, contrary to RR, average GDP growth at public debt/GDP ratios over 90 percent is not dramatically different than when debt/GDP ratios are lower.
The authors also show how the relationship between public debt and GDP growth varies significantly by time period and country. Overall, the evidence we review contradicts Reinhart and Rogoff’s claim to have identified an important stylized fact, that public debt loads greater than 90 percent of GDP consistently reduce GDP growth.
Shorter Abstract: They REALLY screwed the pooch.
So, there’s now this bigger problem out there which is the very serious people that are crashing economies based on a set of very biased assumptions and a very serious coding error. To put that in a more politically correct way: How Much Unemployment Was Caused by Reinhart and Rogoff’s Arithmetic Mistake? Followed by, will the very serious people correct their very serious policy errors now?
This is a big deal because politicians around the world have used this finding from R&R to justify austerity measures that have slowed growth and raised unemployment. In the United States many politicians have pointed to R&R’s work as justification for deficit reduction even though the economy is far below full employment by any reasonable measure. In Europe, R&R’s work and its derivatives have been used to justify austerity policies that have pushed the unemployment rate over 10 percent for the euro zone as a whole and above 20 percent in Greece and Spain. In other words, this is a mistake that has had enormous consequences.
In fairness, there has been other research that makes similar claims, including more recent work by Reinhardt and Rogoff. But it was the initial R&R papers that created the framework for most of the subsequent policy debate. And HAP has shown that the key finding that debt slows growth was driven overwhelmingly by the exclusion of 4 years of data from New Zealand.
If facts mattered in economic policy debates, this should be the cause for a major reassessment of the deficit reduction policies being pursued in the United States and elsewhere. It should also cause reporters to be a bit slower to accept such sweeping claims at face value.
I spent most of Monday’s Morning Reads showing the current US economic data that shows that the deficit and debt of the US are melting like the wicked witch under that bucket of water. I worry any more deficit reduction will throw our economy into recession and pave the way for Republican take over of the Senate. However, the big green talking heads have been ignoring the data and just about everything else that a legion of economists have said citing this one–now clearly known to be flawed–study. As Krugman mentioned in his blogs, their results was counter-intuitive and controversial among economists from day one of publication. Policymakers through out Europe and the US gratuitously ignored all that because the questions did not fit their plan to push the mistakes of banks on a lot of hapless citizenry.
This is literally the most influential article cited in public and policy debates about the importance of debt stabilization, so naturally this is going to change everything.
Or, rather, it will change nothing. As I’ve said many times, citations of the Reinhart/Rogoff result in a policy context obviously appealing to a fallacious form of causal inference. There is an overwhelming theoretical argument that slow real growth will lead to a high debt:GDP ratio and thus whether or not you can construct a dataset showing a correlation between the two tells us absolutely nothing about whether high debt loads lead to small growth. The correct causal inference doesn’t rule out causation in the direction Reinhart and Rogoff believe in, but the kind of empirical study they’ve conducted couldn’t possibly establish it. To give an example from another domain, you might genuinely wonder if short kids are more likely to end up malnourished because they’re not good at fighting for food or something. A study where you conclude that short stature and malnourishment are correlated would give us zero information about this hypothesis, since everyone already knows that malnourishment leads to stunted growth. There might be causation in the other direction as well, but a correlation study woudn’t tell you.
The fact that Reinhart/Rogoff was widely cited despite its huge obvious theoretical problems leads me to confidently predict that the existence of equally huge, albeit more subtle, empirical problems won’t change anything either. As of 2007 there was a widespread belief among elites in the United States and Europe that reductions in retirement benefits were desirable, and subsequent events regarding economic crisis and debt have simply been subsumed into that longstanding view.
The very serious policymakers were looking for any justification for their austerity pogrom. This is mainly because German taxpayers and pols don’t want to be on the hook for what German and US bankers did around the Eurozone. It is also because Republican law makers and their plutocratic overlords–like the Dr. Strangelove of Wall Street Pete Peterson–don’t want any funds floating around anywhere that could possibly find residency in their fee-churning ponzi schemes of investment funds.
It is not unusual, unfortunately, for some academics to neatly choose assumptions to drive results towards their hypothesis. That is why peer review is extremely important. Nearly every major study done using empirical data should be easily replicated. It is usual for the authors to share their database and R&R obliged on this matter. But, this emphasizes why major studies with major findings that don’t fit snugly with the current body of theory should undergo robust challenge. Many economists had challenged the findings back in 2010 and the fact that some felt compelled to repeat their research indicated a healthy level of skepticism which is the hallmark of good research and researchers.
What is most disturbing about this is that agendas that drive the interests of a few start to reflect these theories-in-process. R&R 2010 fit the gross ambitions of people that were less concerned about truth than philosophy and ability to drive policy that basically is at odds with everything we’ve known about fiscal policy. So, this takes us back to Matt’s question. There is incredible discussion on this in nearly all economics and finance blogs and circles. Will these findings engender the same discussion and any course correction of the very serious people that used this very serious paper to do some very serious damage around the world.
I know it’s too much to hear those wonderful words ” We were wrong” on top of some course corrections. But, hey it’s not too late for our President to give up the debt and deficit hysteria or is it?
It’s Sunday again and the Villagers will be hanging out on the Sunday shows pushing the austerity agenda and talking about the two other issues that are on their minds these days–guns and immigration. I have to wonder if they aren’t ginning up those two issues just to keep Americans in the dark about how the oligarchs, with the help of President Obama, are trying to make the U.S. economy into as big a mess as Europe’s.
Here’s a list of the folks who’ll be lecturing us on the various “news” and talk shows today, courtesy of DailyKos. Basically it’s going to be the Marco Rubio show.
Meet the Press: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL); Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Sen. Mike Lee(R-UT); Roundtable: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Katty Kay(BBC), David Brooks (New York Times) and Chuck Todd (NBC News).
Face the Nation: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL); Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV); Sen. Pat Toomey(R-PA); Former Astronaut Mark Kelly; Roundtable: David Ignatius (Washington Post),David Sanger (New York Times), Amy Walter (Cook Political Report) and John Dickerson(CBS News).
This Week: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL); Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Sen. Jeff Sessions(R-AL); MLB Player Mariano Rivera; MLB Player Robinson Cano; Roundtable: George Will (Washington Post), Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Ruth Marcus (Washington Post) and Kimberley Strassel (Wall Street Journal).
Fox News Sunday: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL); Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL); Sen. John Cornyn(R-TX); Roundtable: Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), Marjorie Clifton (Spike the Watercooler), Republican Strategist Karl Rove and Former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN).
State of the Union: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ); Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL); Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV); Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA); Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile; Republican Strategist Ana Navarro; Gerald Seib (Wall Street Journal); Reliable Sources:Amy Holmes (The Blaze); Ana Marie Cox (The Guardian); Nia-Malika Henderson(Washington Post); Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN); Democratic Strategist Paul Begala; Filmmaker Robert Greenwald.
The Chris Matthews Show: Joe Klein (TIME); Katty Kay (BBC); Amy Walter (Cook Political Report); Peter Alexander (NBC News).
Fareed Zakaria GPS: Former OMB Director David Stockman; Former Economic Adviser to President Obama Austan Goolsbee; CourtTV Founder Steven Brill; Game Show Network CEO David Goldhill; Anthony Bourdain (CNN); Former Tata Group Chair Ratan Tata.
Plus, I’ve got a few interesting reads for you from various sources.
Politico finds that Obama’s big donors aren’t ponying up for his “Organizing for America”–the group that is supposed to help push his austerity agenda.
The group, which has no fundraising limits and is not required by law to release donor information, raised $4.9 million in its first three months of existence. By comparison, the Democratic National Committee — which is limited in what it can raise by law — brought in $14 million in the quarter after Obama was first elected in 2008.
The top donor to OFA, Philip Munger, gave $250,000 – a modest sum for a top contributor to a major profile outside group.
Earlier reports in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times suggested that the pro-Obama nonprofit was looking for a high-profile group of donors to chip in $500,000, $1 million or more.
Democratic Party donor mainstays like Fred Eychaner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Stephen Speilberg, Steve and Amber Mostyn and others are missing from the list, which includes all donors who gave $250 or more.
Barack and Michelle Obama also are not listed as donors.
Loyal Obama donors like Penny Pritzker, Jane Stetson, Azita Raji and others are also missing — though the top Obama campaign bundler Andrew Tobias chipped in $50,000 to the new group.
Other major Obama campaign fundraisers on the list include: Barbara Grasseschi, Nicola Miner, William Freeman, Wayne Jordan, Michael Kemper, Imad Zuberi, Frank White, Naomi Aberly, and South Carolina Democratic Party chair Dick Harpootlian.
Business Insider publishes The States With The Heaviest Student Loan Debts And Highest Delinquency Rates (the research comes from the St. Louis Fed). Check those out at the link.
To continue the academic theme, Alternet has a piece on Academia’s Indentured Servants. This may give you an idea of why I soured on teaching for a living.
On April 8, 2013, the New York Times reported that 76 percent of American university faculty are adjunct professors – an all-time high. Unlike tenured faculty, whose annual salaries can top $160,000, adjunct professors make an average of $2,700 per course and receive no health care or other benefits.
Most adjuncts teach at multiple universities while still not making enough to stay above the poverty line. Some are on welfare or homeless. Others depend on charity drives held by their peers. Adjuncts are generally not allowed to have offices or participate in faculty meetings. When they ask for a living wage or benefits, they can be fired. Their contingent status allows them no recourse.
No one forces a scholar to work as an adjunct. So why do some of America’s brightest PhDs – many of whom are authors of books and articles on labour, power, or injustice – accept such terrible conditions?
“Path dependence and sunk costs must be powerful forces,” speculates political scientist Steve Saidemen in a post titled “ The Adjunct Mystery“. In other words, job candidates have invested so much time and money into their professional training that they cannot fathom abandoning their goal – even if this means living, as Saidemen says, like “second-class citizens”. (He later downgraded this to “third-class citizens”.)
I spend much of yesterday playing a video game called Minecraft. When my nephews were little, I helped them play games on the computer. Nowadays they help me (they are ages 10 and 7). Every time they get hooked on a new game, they want me to play it too.
First it was Plants vs. Zombies, which I loved. Now it’s Minecraft, and I’m getting addicted to that too. It’s a virtual world where you build things out of 3-D looking blocks. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s amazingly fun because it’s open ended and can go on forever, limited only by your imagination and designing and building skill. Of course there are other challenges like attacks by monsters and getting lost underground–which happened to me yesterday.
Anyway, there was an interview with the guy who developed Minecraft, Markus Persson, in The New Yorker this week. Not only that Persson has currently been voted number 2 on Time’s list of most influential people.
So if you like to escape into virtual worlds, check it out. I have to add that I never played video games at all until I met Dakinikat. She encouraged me to get started at my advanced age.
Last night the news broke that a man named Eric Williams had been arrested in connection with the murders of two Texas prosecutors. He is a former Texas justice of the peace. TPM reports:
Williams, 46, had not been publicly named a suspect or a person of interest in the case, but authorities did interview him and test him for gunshot residue on March 30, just hours after the bodies of the county District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found in their home in Forney, Texas.
Williams lost his position after being convicted last year of stealing county computer equipment. Both McLelland and Mark Hasse, a county prosecutor killed Jan. 31, were reportedly involved in Williams’ case.
According to The Dallas Morning News, investigators searched Williams’ home late Friday and “have obtained old cellphones, his computer and boxes of other materials.” Williams’ attorney, David Sergi, said Williams was cooperating with investigators and “vigorously asserts his innocence and denies any involvement” in the killings.
According to CBS News, Williams was charged with “making a ‘terroristic threat’” and is being held on $3 million bond. It sounds serious, doesn’t it?
CBS News correspondent John Miller spoke to “CBS Evening News” on Saturday about the latest development in the case. “What is going on,” he said, “is they shifted their view in this case away from their original theory that it might have been part of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang — because that prosecutor’s office was involved in a case there — more to individual people who were prosecuted by both of the district attorneys who were murdered.
“And that brought them to Eric Williams, who is an elected justice of the peace, who was then both prosecuted by Mark Hasse, one of the murdered district attorneys, and by Mike McLelland, the D.A. Looking into him, they found out he was somebody who made threats to other people, who had a large collection of guns, and possibly had a grudge. Of course he denies all this.”
Miller had previously spoken to Williams a couple of times. “He says he understands why they’re looking at him,” Miller explained. “that they have to do their jobs, that he has nothing to do with that case, and that he’s been cooperative. He says his case was about the political undertows in the county, but he understands what’s going on.”
Miller’s home was searched on Friday, but law enforcement officials were looking at him previously.
Earlier this month, Williams said he voluntarily submitted to a gun residue test after authorities contacted him while investigating the deaths of the McLellands. Sergi has said Williams also submitted to a gun residue test and gave his cellphone to authorities when he was questioned after Hasse’s death.
I’m going to wrap this up with something uplifting (pun intended). It’s an amazing video of a golden eagle flying in slow motion. Sadly, I can’t embed it here, but please go watch it. You won’t be sorry.
What’s on your mind today? Please post your links freely in the comments, and have a great Sunday!!
Saturday Reads: Jupiter and the Moon, the Myth of the Dying PC, and the Strange Psychology of Barack ObamaPosted: April 13, 2013
If you have clear skies where you live this weekend, you might be able to see some spectacular views of Jupiter and the Moon. National Geographic reports:
Up first on Saturday, April 13, look towards the high western sky after local sunset for a waxing crescent Moon. Look to its far upper left and you will see a super-bright star – that is planet Jupiter- visible easily even from within heavily light polluted city limits.
As the sky darkens -about an hour after local sunset – look to the Moon’s immediate left and you will notice a distinctly orange-tinged, twinkling star. Aldebaran represents the red eye of Taurus, the bull constellation and is 65.1 light years from Earth. A true monster compared to our little Sun- Aldebaran’s diameter would reach beyond the orbit of Mars if it replaced our Sun at the center of the solar system.
Look carefully between Aldebaran and the Moon in a darkened sky and the Hyades star cluster will come into view. Binoculars may help make out the distinctive V-shape of this 250 light year distant star association – one of the closest to Earth.
Now scan to the lower right of the Moon and a tight hazy patch of little stars can be glimpsed even with the naked eye from suburban skies. Known as the Seven sisters, the Pleiades is one of the better known sky targets for backyard stargazers. This rich open cluster actually has more than 40 young stars as members – no more than 10 million years old – and most can be seen with binoculars and small telescopes, however with the unaided eye will pick out the brightest five to seven of its stars.
By Sunday night, April 14th, the Moon will have risen higher in the western evening sky for a striking visual pairing with brilliant Jupiter. The cosmic duo will appear to be separated by only a couple of degrees – less than the width of your two middle fingers held at arm’s length.
In addition, on Sunday, you might be able to see Jupiter in the daytime according to Science World Report.
Tomorrow, April 14, you could have the chance of seeing Jupiter during the daytime and join the ranks of people that have spotted the giant plant while the sun is in the sky.
During daylight, the sky can look like an unbroken swathe of blue on a clear, sunny day. This makes it difficult to pick out celestial features since there are no “markers” to go by. The night sky, in contrast, has the benefit of possessing constellations to navigate by.
Yet tomorrow, the moon will be up during the daytime, which makes all of the difference in the world. The day sky is, in fact, just as transparent in daylight as it is on a dark night. If you know exactly where to look and have something to focus your eyes on, you can see the brighter and larger planets in the blue sky.
So what planets can you see? You can spot Venus easily during the daytime. In fact, during Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration, large numbers of people in the crowd were able to see Venus over the Capitol Dome. Jupiter, which will be making an appearance tomorrow, is slightly more difficult to spot. It’s further from the sun, which means that it’s less well lit than Venus.
I’m hoping it will clear up here so I can try to spot Jupiter in the sky tomorrow. It’s supposed to rain today, so I don’t know if I can see the starts this evening, but I plan to give it a try.
I’m writing this post on a laptop computer that I bought in August 2008. It runs on Windows Vista. It used to be that I’d have to buy a new computer every couple of years, but I’ve had this one for more than four years and it’s showing no sign of breaking down or running out of memory. I do have a back-up laptop that is a bit newer, but I still like this one better.
The reason why I bring this up is that I’ve been seeing articles recently about the death of the PC and how pretty soon PCs will be replaced with other, more exciting gadgets. These rumors are based on sales data that shows people aren’t buying as many PC’s as they used to. This may be bad news for some corporations, but it’s good news for us customers.
At Slate, Will Oremus explains: “The Real Reason No One’s Buying PCs Anymore: They’ve Gotten Too Good.”
It’s certainly true that people are increasingly spending money on new tablets and smartphones rather than new computers. But reports of the PC’s demise are grossly exaggerated. If the PC is dead, what am I typing this on? If the PC is dead, what are office-workers all over the world sitting in front of all day while they work? The reason people aren’t buying new PCs isn’t that they don’t need a PC. It’s that, for the most part, they’re getting along just fine with the one they already have.
In the past, you had to replace your computer every few years or else it would become hopelessly bogged down trying to deal with the latest desktop applications, operating systems, and Internet technologies. But thanks to Moore’s Law, your average PC’s processing power now exceeds most people’s daily needs by a healthy margin. Meanwhile, the rise of the cloud has reduced the need for extra memory. And as ZDNet’s Simon Bisson explains in depth, a strategic shift by Microsoft in recent years has meant that you no longer need to buy a new machine in order to take advantage of each new operating system. The result is that PCs have become more durable than smartphones and tablets, which are still puny enough in their powers that you have to upgrade them regularly.
PC makers probably didn’t mean for that to happen, but there you have it. They’re a victim of unplanned non-obsolescence.
Joseph Cannon has also weighed in on the rumored death of the PC.
…the makers of desktop computers and laptops must learn that today’s machines have become really, really good — better than most people need. They do not require replacement every few years. Maybe once a decade. When you buy a high-quality raincoat, paintbrush, coffee table or carpet, you’re investing in something built to last. So too, now, with computers.
Here’s another reason PC sales have slowed: Windows 8 blows like a tornado and sucks like a black hole.
I’m not even that wild about Windows 7 myself.
Have you noticed I’m avoiding the political news this morning? I’m still flummoxed by James Carville’s comments yesterday on Morning Joe about President Obama’s priorities (courtesy of Talking Points Memo).
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Carville said he thinks Obama relishes the commendation he’s received from deficit hawks like New York Times columnist David Brooks and host Joe Scarborough. Asked by co-host Mike Barnicle how the President will respond to the outrage from the left-wing of the Democratic Party, Carville was blunt.
“I think he likes that,” Carville said. “I don’t think he’s upset. He got a very favorable Washington Post editorial. ‘Morning Joe,’ very favorable commentary right here. I guarantee you if he’s up watching this right now. Got a good David Brooks column. He’s kind of excited this morning. This is kind of important to him.”
Folks at DailyKos interpreted this as Carville agreeing with Obama (see comments and prepare for some Hillary hate as well). I don’t think so. I think Carville sees this as idiotic. He doesn’t much care for Obama, and he’s outing the president as a pathetic media suckup.
The sad thing is that I believe Carville. I really think Obama is completely so much in thrall to the DC elite that he’s willing to hurt his own reputation in order to please them. Obama is the opposite of Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt reveled in insulting the establishment, especially the bankers. Obama releases a draconian austerity budget, celebrates the reviews from the Washington Post and David Brooks, and the next day he meets with Wall Street criminals Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, among others.
I need to work out a new psychological profile of Barack Obama. What is his deal anyway? During the 2012 campaign, he began to talk like a liberal and a populist. The more he got out with real people, the more he seemed to be able to empathize with them a little bit. But as soon as he was reelected and went back to the Village bubble, he reverted to form. In the 1970s Obama would have been a Republican and considerably to the right of Richard Nixon.
The fascinating thing is that I think Obama actually understands that his policies are going to hurt the economy. He has said repeatedly that he thinks stimulating the economy is important. He also knows that health care costs are the real problem and that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. Back in January, John Boehner told the Wall Street Journal about a “frustrating” conversation he had with Obama.
What stunned House Speaker John Boehner more than anything else during his prolonged closed-door budget negotiations with Barack Obama was this revelation: “At one point several weeks ago,” Mr. Boehner says, “the president said to me, ‘We don’t have a spending problem.’ ” [....]
The president’s insistence that Washington doesn’t have a spending problem, Mr. Boehner says, is predicated on the belief that massive federal deficits stem from what Mr. Obama called “a health-care problem.” Mr. Boehner says that after he recovered from his astonishment—”They blame all of the fiscal woes on our health-care system”—he replied: “Clearly we have a health-care problem, which is about to get worse with ObamaCare. But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem.” He repeated this message so often, he says, that toward the end of the negotiations, the president became irritated and said: “I’m getting tired of hearing you say that.”
Nevertheless, as we have seen, Obama’s budget would increase health care costs, wouldn’t raise much revenue, and would drastically increase income inequality. The only thing that is saving us from Obama’s folly is that Republicans are even nuttier in their obsession with avoiding tax increases on rich people.
There has to be a psychological explanation for Obama’s obsession with trying to win over people who hate and despise him and will never like him no matter what he does. I assume it at least partially goes back to his childhood and being abandoned by both of his parents. Obama even chooses advisers who will convince him to advance Republican policies!
At the moment, it looks to me as if Obama has made himself a lame duck with this budget, even if it never gets a vote (and it probably won’t). Democratic candidates will have to distance themselves from him if they want to be elected or reelected. Why would he do that to himself? And I reject the idea that he’s just evil incarnate as some people who drop in here occasionally seem to think.
I’m sure Obama must care about his legacy, but somehow he still can’t screw up the courage to buck the establishment that really doesn’t like and and never will. As of now, it looks like he could go down in history as a very bad President–maybe even as bad as George W. Bush. But we’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out over the next few years.