Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 8, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

TAG TEAM FACT CHECKING....Who does a better job of skewering Robert Samuelson's transparently mendacious column today about Bill Clinton's economic record? Greg Anrig, who keeps it short and punchy, or Brad DeLong, who provides the wonkish detail?

Read them both and decide for yourself.

Kevin Drum 5:54 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (49)

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Comments

truthiness!

yeah!

Brad de Long rocks.

Posted by: lib on February 8, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, like we need any facts. Kevin, how can you still remain in "reality"? Get with the winning program!

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on February 8, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

Brad de Long's column is easy to understand and---which is of the greatest importance to me--the kind of argument you can win an election with.

If wonkish means full of boring and irrelevant academic detail, this piece is not wonkish at all.

Posted by: Steve High on February 8, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

I'll go along with de Long's column. I know wingers hate facts but sooner or later they will have to deal with reality - well maybe not.

Posted by: cq on February 8, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

In Captain Kirk-like over over acting...

Must---not---give---Clinton---credit---for---anything---good

Posted by: Robert on February 8, 2006 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

You know, it brings to mind the Onion headline upon Bush's election, "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is over."

I'm so sorry that rich people don't like to pay taxes. But I for one am pretty embarrassed to be leaving my children and grandchildren a legacy of unbelievable debt. I for one would really like the 90's back. Good times.

Posted by: theorajones on February 8, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

There is a new strong movement afoot among the hardcore conservatives.The sole object of the movement is to give away all the wealth that they amassed during the nineties as they believe that the Clinton era prosperity was a delusion.

Posted by: nut on February 8, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

What gets me is that "mainstream" journalists like this know they're being dishonest when they say these things.

Posted by: Memekiller on February 8, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

I like Brad de Long's version. It doesn't get bogged down in boring detail. It does have enough specifics in it that he sounds like he knows what he's talking about.

Posted by: duvidil on February 8, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Detached from the reality of the workplace, Samuelson lies like a cheap rug.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on February 8, 2006 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Tax increases will save the day, right?

All right. I hear a lot of noise, but don't see much action from the Democrats in Congress.

So tell them to put their money--or ours--where their mouths are. Vote to kill the extension of the current tax cuts. Then put some heavy tax increases on the table, and actually vote for them. Make sure they're widely publicized as possible.

Go for it. Look at all the success George H. W. Bush had with his deficit reduction package. The one the "fiscally-responsible" Democrats killed him with in the election.

Put up, Democrats, or shut up.

BTW, where does Brad get his percentages?

Posted by: tbrosz on February 8, 2006 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK


Put up, Democrats, or shut up.

The Republican leadership won't bring anything Democratic to the floor. They won't even bring anything to the floor that doesn't have a majority of Republican support.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 8, 2006 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

Well Clinton did just that Tbroz,And a lot of people made a lot of money. The 90's where good.Much better then they are now.Right?

Posted by: rico swava' on February 8, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

I like Brad de Long's version. It doesn't get bogged down in boring detail. It does have enough specifics in it that he sounds like he knows what he's talking about. Posted by: duvidil

That might be the case because, unlike Samuelson, DeLong is actually an economist, not just someone with the same last name as a Nobel laureate in economics.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 8, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

The one the "fiscally-responsible" Democrats killed him with in the election.

Are we talking about the Democrats or the Republicans who crucified Bush over his read-my-lips remark?

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 8, 2006 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz, brad gets his numbers from a series of calculations that he has detailed in the past. i suspect they are easy enough to find by searching his site. they are largely sourced from cbo material.

but i'll tell you what, tbrosz: as soon as bush puts a budget on the table that is, 17 quarters into an expansion, in balance, then and only then will i recommend that the dems vote for tax increases. why should only one side - the one without power - have to be the responsible party?

Posted by: howard on February 8, 2006 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

It's really quite simple. Make it the centerpiece of the Democratic budget-balancing campaign in 2006. Run with it.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 8, 2006 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

Tax increases will save the day, right? Posted by: tbrosz

Of course not, T-Bone, and no one argues that. However, if we'd left tax rates where they were in 2000 (tax rates that didn't hamper the economic boom of the late 90s in the least), hadn't invaded a country that posed no threat to the U.S. to the tune of some $300B and counting, and if the president and Republicans controlling Congress were in the least bit fiscally responsible we wouldn't have added massively to the national debt and completely destroyed the countries financial flexibility.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 8, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

shorter Howard:

Democrats aren't in power, why should they have to come up with ideas?

Not the best way to get back into power, is it?

"Cut defense spending" and "raise taxes" have been the only two items on the Democratic budget-balancing list since I was old enough to pay attention to politics. Not much has changed, except that lately these don't sell as well as they used to.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 8, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

"Pay your bills" and "save money for a rainy day" have been the only two items on the responsible adult budget-balancing list since I was old enough to pay attention to my elders. Not much has changed, except that lately these don't sell as well as they used to.

Posted by: Joel on February 8, 2006 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

"Cut defense spending" and "raise taxes" have been the only two items on the Democratic budget-balancing list

Tell me brosz, when you design rockets, do you only pay attention to aeronautical concepts that fit neatly onto a bumper sticker?

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 8, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

We will raise taxes just enough to pay of the debt the right run up since they where in power,We will not hand off this debt to our grandchildren.

Posted by: rico swava' on February 8, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

no, the actual shorter howard is:

expect both parties to be responsible or expect neither one to, but don't ask one party to fight with both arms tied behind its back.

Posted by: howard on February 8, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

As a republican we will run up massive debts for your grandchildren,So the rich of today may have a tax break they don't need.

Posted by: rico swava' on February 8, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK
The Republican leadership won't bring anything Democratic to the floor. They won't even bring anything to the floor that doesn't have a majority of Republican support.

That's not entirely true. They will bring distorted strawmen they concoct to the floor, like the "Withdraw all troops from Iraq immediately without any plan for safety!" bill they trotted out to "debate" a while back.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 8, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

It's not "Starve the Beast".

It's "Feed the poor to the Beast".

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 8, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

And our big idea was to have the Iraqis pay for reconstruction saving tax payers almost 500 billion dollars.

Posted by: rico swava' on February 8, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK
"Cut defense spending" and "raise taxes" have been the only two items on the Democratic budget-balancing list since I was old enough to pay attention to politics.

Thoughtless repetition of right-wing talking points isn't the same thing as paying attention.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 8, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

Vote for me and I will hand your children the largest Debt. this country has ever seen.

Posted by: rico swava' on February 8, 2006 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Tbroz how come you where so against the Iraqis paying for reconstruction,Saving the tax payers 500 billion dollars?And a modest tax cut that this country could afford.

Posted by: rico swava' on February 8, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

If the Republicans can make so much headway with 'we torture less than Saddam' why can't Democrats at least say that 'we are less corrupt than Republicans'? The proposed Democratic slogan will at least have the advantage of being overwhelmingly and demonstrably true.

Posted by: lib on February 8, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

500 billion dollars

Posted by: rico swava' on February 8, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz-

The first percentage (roughly 8%) relates to the swing of deficit to surplus as a percentage of GDP.

So if a change by Bush Senior represents x number of dollars, and those dollars represent y% GDP, he will call that a + or - y%.

My only critique of the article is that he didn't dwell on the ways in which these budget changes magnified eachother. Had Bush been followed by somebody uncommitted to deficit reduction, it would be difficult to look back and say "Bush was responsible for y% change." Likewise deficit reduction greatly magnified the investment into capital stock that helped drive the economy, which in turn drove the stock market. As percentages they work somewhat, but the value of them cannot be seen in isolation.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on February 8, 2006 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

Samuelson is one of the most worthless "wanker" columnists among the not obvious right wing tools.

Posted by: Neil' on February 8, 2006 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

I really like Greg's version! But Brad's is excellent, too.

Thank myself.

Posted by: Anrig on February 8, 2006 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK
Make it the centerpiece of the Democratic budget-balancing campaign in 2006.Posted by: tbrosz
It worked for Ronald Reagan. The only time Republicans argue for fiscal responsibility is when it's politically expedient. Posted by: Mike on February 8, 2006 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

Each has their merits, but de Long's does a better job of debunking the "luck."

Ah, those lucky '90s, when I lived like a damn Republican.

Posted by: bryrock on February 8, 2006 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz's "argument" here is fascinating.

Some fiscal conservative, huh?

Here's a fact: at some point in the near future, we are, at least, going to eliminate Bush's idiotic tax cuts. We might even need to do more, to pay for his drunken sailor spending amazingly reckless tax cuts for the wealthy.

This is FACT.

So are you happy that the bullshit you and your ilk have been spinning for the last 20 years has put the American fiscal situation on the brink of catastrophe? Do you delight in the fact that your buddies in congress, and your buddy George, have a guaranteed massive tax hikes in our future?

Do you think it's somehow "neat" that it will be hard to get elected telling the American people the truth, as opposed to the steady stream of lies Republicans have been peddling for two decades?

Are you really this stupid?

Posted by: teece on February 8, 2006 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone remember the savings and loan scandal under bush 1. That was daddy's giveaway to the rich. W had his tax cut and war. Reagan screwed us on social security and were still paying for the arms buildup. What great guys.

Oh yeah Clinton got a blowjob.

Posted by: Neo on February 8, 2006 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

Tell me brosz, when you design rockets, do you only pay attention to aeronautical concepts that fit neatly onto a bumper sticker?

Brosz' rocket made it a total of 75 feet into space before it ran out of money. Not exactly a masterpiece of engineering or sound bugetary estimation. But I'm sure that it was someone else's fault.

Posted by: tbonz on February 8, 2006 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

When one doesn't have an idea in one's head, it's really much easier to simply trash the success of someone else. It's not really an idea, just a tedious, repetitive process. Eventually, the whole populace gets tired of listening to the crap and just decides to believe what they are hearing to make it seem less irritating. By this, Hitler rose to power...

Posted by: parrot on February 9, 2006 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

Samuelson is one of the legion of journalists who think appearing to be unbiased is more important than saying truth. Of course he must "balance" any criticism of Republican policies with one dragged out from the Democrats' hoary past.

This is how I imagine Samuelson would interview Adolf Hitler, who is running as a Republican, opposed by a fantasy Democrat. "Fantasy" because he actually fights back. Obviously he is a fictional character.

Samuelson: "Mr. Hitler, let's talk about your proposal for a final solution."

Hitler: "Excuse me, Mr. Samuelson, We call it the Democracy and Freedom Camps Patriotic Initiative."

Samuelson: "Oh yes, sorry. Democracy and Freedom Camps it is."

Senator X: "He is a liar and a murderer. He plans to gas nine million people!"

Samuelson: "Senator, this kind of partisan rhetoric is poisoning the climate in Washington. In fairness, isn't it a fact that you once had your dog euthanized?"

And the beat goes on...

Posted by: James of DC on February 9, 2006 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

BTW- before the ghostly spectre of Tbrosz infected this site, he was a frequent troll at Brad DeLong's site. Guess what happened... He got run out. His pseudo-intellectual attitude without the facts to back it up can sometimes obfuscate the arguments for a short period of time on this blog (before being found out, and, suddenly, disappearing till the next thread). However, on Brad's blog that kind of crap got him bitch-slapped so many times he stopped posting there. So when Tbrosz says that "liberals have no understanding of economics" it's a flat-out lie, since he was the one who got run out of town when it came to actually debating economics with people who like, know about economics. Here he can fake it, and demonstrate his annoyance when the conversation goes over his head.

Posted by: lurker on February 9, 2006 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

Christ! Samuelson is upset that Clinton's success was not predicted by his fellow economists who can only see doomsday a mile away. Economics is the only "science" where theories are verified by past rather than future events. And the Clinton "boom"--no matter how it was generated, blew the top off quite a number of economic theories. Oops! Time to go back to the drawing board.

Economists get penis envy every time they are outdone by someone who senses the economic direction intuitively, rather than following their recommendations. Their narcissism does not usually prevent them from recognizing when someone is driving the economy off a cliff. So we get some odd balance here. But let's be clear--"VooDoo Economics" was an oxymoron. Beyond the basic principles, all economics is VooDoo science.

Posted by: buck turgidson on February 9, 2006 at 2:59 AM | PERMALINK

Forget Samuelson - check out

Global: The Battleground of Globalization
Stephen Roach (Morgan Stanley)

The Great American labor market is but a shadow of its former self, as lagging job creation and generally stagnant real wages have broken decisively with historical norms. The same pressures are bearing down on high-wage workers throughout the developed world. At work is an increasingly powerful IT-enabled global labor arbitrage that reslices the global pie. For the industrial world, the pendulum of economic returns has swung from labor to capital...
.....

In the big industrialized economies of the developed world, the squeeze on labor could well be the singular macro development of our lifetime.
.....

The net result of these trends has been a significant compression of the share of output remunerated to labor in the developed world. In the US, for example, inflation-adjusted worker compensation in the private sector -- which includes wages, salaries, and benefits and is, by far, the biggest piece of overall personal income in the US -- has risen only 12% in the 49-month time span of the current expansion. By our calculations, this falls about $365 billion short (in real terms) of the 20% increase that occurred, on average, over comparable intervals of the past four expansions.

.....

But theres an important twist to this development. Its one thing for labors reward to be squeezed in the structurally-impaired, low-productivity growth economies of Europe and Japan. Its another thing altogether for these same pressures to bear down on the productivity-enhancing contributions of American workers. This runs against the grain of one of the basic axioms of classic macro -- that workers are ultimately paid in accordance with their marginal product. Yet that hasnt been the case in the US for quite some time. Over the 2001-05 interval, for example, productivity growth averaged 3.3% in the nonfarm business sector of the US economy -- basically double the 1.6% gains in real hourly compensation over the same five-year period.
.....

Geez, Louise. And the tax cuts just add fuel to the bonfire.

Posted by: CFShep on February 9, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Christ! Samuelson is upset that Clinton's success was not predicted by his fellow economists who can only see doomsday a mile away. Posted by: buck turgidson

Buck, Samuelson isn't an economist. He doesn't even have a BA in economics. He's nothing but a stinking columnist for a second-rate "news group."

Posted by: Jeff II on February 9, 2006 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Buck, Samuelson isn't an economist. He doesn't even have a BA in economics. He's nothing but a stinking columnist for a second-rate "news group." Jeff II

He possibly met an economist once though. Guy's a crock.

Hey, I keep waiting for him to spell out where the jobs are going to be after they've been booted out of corporate America at 60 something and can't even look to SS...

How many greeters can Wal-Mart hire?

God, knows this job market already loves anyone over 40, right? 35, if you're female.

Posted by: CFShep on February 9, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

But theres an important twist to this development. Its one thing for labors reward to be squeezed in the structurally-impaired, low-productivity growth economies of Europe and Japan. Posted by: CFShep

The guy lost me here with his ridiculous comment about Japan having a "low-productivity growth econom(y)."

First of all there is no such thing in economics as "low-productivity growth." Sounds like someone was trying to coin a new concept there or spent some time in law school where they teach you, primarily, how to mis-use the English language.

Growth is growth. Productivity level doesn't really come into it. Efficieny is the important thing. Japan is inefficient vs. China in manufacturing the same item because of input costs. But Japan's manufacturing productivity is anything but low. It's not cheap, but it's productivity level and quality control are both extremely high, perhaps still the highest in the world.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 9, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK
First of all there is no such thing in economics as "low-productivity growth." Sounds like someone was trying to coin a new concept there or spent some time in law school where they teach you, primarily, how to mis-use the English language.

Any specialized education tends to infect you with jargon that it is inappropriate in other contexts, but I don't think law school is the source of the use of "low-productivity growth" (which suggests growth with low productivity) when what is clearly meant is "low productivity growth" or perhaps more clearly "low growth in productivity".

Posted by: cmdicely on February 9, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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