Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 9, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

I DO NOT THINK THAT WORD MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS....The Wall Street Journal asked its panel of economists which presidential candidate offers the most responsible fiscal policies. Only 28 answered:

However, Sen. John McCain was the clear favorite of those who answered the question. Twenty-one economists [or] 75% of the respondents chose the Republican contender.

I guess blowing a $5 trillion hole in the budget and proposing a gas tax holiday counts as responsible among the WSJ's team. Maybe Hillary was right about economists after all. Via Krugman.

Kevin Drum 12:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (48)

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WTF? Did they run this survey on April 1 or something??

Posted by: bmaz on May 9, 2008 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

It’s true that the WSJ seems to have surveyed business economists rather than academics. But this is still shocking.

Business "economists" are all hacks, basically. Listen to CNBC or Bloomberg radio for plenty of examples.

Posted by: PeakVT on May 9, 2008 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

I don't suppose this poll had a "show your work" section. Studies show Democratic presidents are better for the economy, by most measures. Good to know that these guys use theories so powerful that they resist contrary data.

Posted by: dr2chase on May 9, 2008 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

What's the big deal with a gas tax holiday? That's chicken feed compared to pentagon spending and tax cuts for the investor class.

Posted by: asdf on May 9, 2008 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

There are three proven ways to lower IQ.

1. Head trauma.
2. Watching TV all day.
3. Studying economics.

Posted by: Luther on May 9, 2008 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

Why do I get the suspicion that the other 150 answers saying "Obama" got mysteriously lost in the mail room?

I remember watching Dan "Potatoe" Quayle speak one time, and answer questions from the audience. We wrote down our questions and handed them in. I watched a guy on stage discard question after question until he got one from one of his shills - then he gave that "audience question" to the moderator for submission to Mr. Quayle.

Care to wager why so many economists "failed to respond"?

Posted by: RepubAnon on May 9, 2008 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

Economics: the science of predicting what will happen last year, given the data from the preceding 5 years.

Posted by: RepubAnon on May 9, 2008 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

So "almost half" failed to answer . . . Because?

The WSJ might not like the answer? Despite being on the WSJ's panel they just didn't feel like it that day, and the Journal doesn't care if they don't answer?

Clearly most of those who answered knew their answer was acceptable and some lied, and the rest didn't want to give the WSJ an answer they wouldn't want.

All pretty sick.

And, hell, if you need a panel of 50+ economists to give you any answer: 1) you are not choosing your economist by what you believe to be their talent, and 2) you don't have enough judgement to criticize their opinions.

All in all, pretty sad.

Posted by: notthere on May 9, 2008 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

Next up: The Discovery Institute polls evolutionary biologist on which candidate will be the champion for innocent human life. 100% of the respondents choose McCain.

Posted by: gregor on May 9, 2008 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

Responsibility has been hedged in the Twenty-first Century.

Posted by: Brojo on May 9, 2008 at 3:20 AM | PERMALINK

Well, we are talking about a panel of Wall Street Journal economists.

Posted by: Jimm on May 9, 2008 at 4:00 AM | PERMALINK

Next up: The Discovery Institute polls evolutionary biologist on which candidate will be the champion for innocent human life. 100% of the respondents choose McCain.

It's not too late to quote this as your conclusive comment Kevin, seems to get the gist of it where I'm standing.

Posted by: Jimm on May 9, 2008 at 4:02 AM | PERMALINK

This isn't the first poll showing economists favoring McCain.

I think economists like Mccain not so much for his fiscal policies, but because he isn't pandering on trade or ag subsidies or clean coal and whatnot.

The gas tax thing has been a big deal on the liberal blogs, but it's a relatively minor issue compared to Obama's pandering on NAFTA, ag subsidies, and "clean" coal. It's economic ignorance, and economists are punishing him for it by refusing to support him. the only economists I've heard say nice things about his plans SPECIFICALLY are those that work for him.

Posted by: Adam Herman on May 9, 2008 at 4:48 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe the question really was "of the candidates, who is most responsible for the current fiscal disaster?" What is a little editing between cronies of Rupert Murdoch?

Posted by: blowback on May 9, 2008 at 4:49 AM | PERMALINK

The right-wing's obsession with militarism clouds their thinking so badly they can't even see how McCain's so-called "economic policy" is just re-heated trickle-down economics, which has proven time and time again to be a monumental failure. Show them someone in a military uniform and they grovel and want to lick their combat boots - the sick, deviant perverts.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 9, 2008 at 6:34 AM | PERMALINK

How dare they not choose Barry!? He's the egghead's choice, after all.

Posted by: Pat on May 9, 2008 at 6:48 AM | PERMALINK

PeakVT (2nd post) wins the thread; none of the economists they quoted was a university professor, and no one should be surprised if, for example, an economist hired by Boone Pickens or Ivan Boesky thinks that tax cuts create more government revenue.

Posted by: kth on May 9, 2008 at 7:02 AM | PERMALINK

Those surveyed are bankers first and economists second.

Suppose a candidate's fiscal responsibility declines with the amount of money raised from Wall Street? Then a banker can't answer the question honestly. So many chose not to answer -- 50% is a low response rate -- meaning that data in the responses are likely biased.

Posted by: SM on May 9, 2008 at 7:11 AM | PERMALINK

What did you expect from
presented by FOX

Posted by: JoeSixPack on May 9, 2008 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

I hope someone has retained the video of Rachel Maddow on one of her numerous MSNBC appearances several weeks ago predicting (twice) a McCain victory in the general! I wouldn't be too sure that she isn't correct...more's the pity...

Posted by: Dancer on May 9, 2008 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

I suspect the Journal has a pretty good idea of who the economists are who can be counted on to carry water for the plutocrats.

Posted by: demisod on May 9, 2008 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

I love how all the Obamabots who were claiming last week that Hillary was wrecking western civilization by not taking their advise, now see economists as totally out of it....

Keep up the consistency folks...

Posted by: Teresa on May 9, 2008 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

They might be right in that most of what McCain is running on, he ain't-a-gonna pass. Extand the Bush tax cuts? Capital gains tax reduction? Good luck with that.

Posted by: Sanjay on May 9, 2008 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

I find it quite odd so many refused to answer. It's as if the survey was skewed, or economists are conservative and can't stomach hurting their nominee by answering truthfully.

Posted by: memekiller on May 9, 2008 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Conservative Deflator wrote: "McCain's so-called 'economic policy' is just re-heated trickle-down economics, which has proven time and time again to be a monumental failure."

On the contrary, it has proven time and time again to be a monumental success -- at concentrating wealth in the hands of America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc.

Class warfare by the ultra-rich against everyone else is, after all, the WSJ definition of "responsible economic policy".

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 9, 2008 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Wall Street Journal economists are hardly representative of economists in general. demisod got this right a few posts above.

Posted by: maxgowan on May 9, 2008 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I know where to go for my minimum daily requirement of economist bashing!

Krugman hits it on the head; they're mostly business economists, a very separate and distinct breed. They're are but a few that are respected in the profession as a whole, Ed Leamer probably being at the top of that list. Look at where most of them work, e.g. UBS, Lehman, etc. or economic consulting firms. With very rare exceptions you get to be the top dog - more precisely the top economic dog - at those shops by shading your statements in the direction that the firm wants to hear. It's the primary reason why many view business economists as "hacks."

Perhaps the most interesting news is that at this point only about 20 are willing to state a preference for McCain. As an economist, I find even that number depressing, but I take solace in the view that the overwhelming majority of academic economists find McCain's economic policies either not specific enough to merit comment or even in generality form both incoherent and absurd.

Posted by: Rich on May 9, 2008 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

WSJ leaning toward the right? Inconceivable!

Posted by: rusrus on May 9, 2008 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

These people would have fit right in with the Nazis, for their self-delusion.

Public service announcement: During WWII, a great portion of the population of Germany never appreciated how badly things were going for them militarily until the final days. Why? The Nazis controlled the media, and wouldn't allow it to be told to them. So if a bunch of conservative liars keep telling you how rosy things are, when they've been unable to solve their problems for years, don't take it all as so certain just because of the scam-man lines they keep feeding you.

Posted by: Swan on May 9, 2008 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Hold on a minute. It is not fair to denigrate a group simply because of your own ignorance.

For Business Economists (aka shills) the term "responsible fiscal policy" means "keeping the proles quiet and occupied while continuing the looting of the treasury."

With that definition I agree that McSame offers the best chance of this.

Posted by: Tripp on May 9, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Economists for Obama has a post on this--there are actually quite a number of non-WSJ economists who support him, including Nobel Prize winners Stiglitz and Phelps--see link below


Posted by: Nancy Drew on May 9, 2008 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

These folks are not representative of the economics profession. They are a subset that believe that the primary indicator of fiscal responsibility is described by this statement about John McCain:

"...should he favor vast social programs he has championed as a young man we cannot assume he will be fiscally responsible."

In other words, the relative desire for social programs rather than responsible management of revenues and debt is how they gauge "fiscal responsibility".

Posted by: Jim G on May 9, 2008 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Note to self: Do not rely on the Wall Street Journal for business information.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on May 9, 2008 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Krugman, of course, also forgave Hillary for the gas tax stupidity because he thought she was better in the big picture. Does anyone doubt that the wingnut economists surveyed by the WSJ were thinking the exact same way?

Posted by: neil on May 9, 2008 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Note to self: Do not rely on the Wall Street Journal for business information.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist

Dooming yourself to eternal poverty?

Posted by: optical weenie on May 9, 2008 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

which presidential candidate offers the most responsible fiscal policies.

It's a ranking, not an absolute. All they are saying is that McCain's economics flaws are the least among the 3 candidates, not that McCain's plans are actually any good. Obama's and Clinton's health care and tax plans are incoherent pandering.

Posted by: spider on May 9, 2008 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

.The Wall Street Journal asked its panel of economists

I think I've found the problem.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on May 9, 2008 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK


Hmmm, incoherent pandering versus incoherent demented rambling. What to pick, what to pick?

Posted by: Tripp on May 9, 2008 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Right up there with Alan Greenspan informing the newly elected George W. about the danger to the economy from balancing the budget.

Posted by: fafner1 on May 9, 2008 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

But to those bastards, "responsible" means: who will be most responsible for serving their and their class's interests. Kevin, you don't have to play the gee-shucks naïf so much of the time as part of a misguided attachment to Socratic exposition.

Posted by: NB on May 9, 2008 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

The McCain supporting economists are being honest. Our system has been transformed into a pyramid scheme over the last 28 years. There is no easy, quick way out of it.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on May 9, 2008 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, there's an easy way out. Stop paying bills and become homeless.

Posted by: slanted tom on May 9, 2008 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

These same economyths probably also bought into the myth that Bush was fiscally responsible. Then again economyths are concerned more about wall street and the MIC than they are about the useless eaters [salus populi]

Posted by: Jet on May 9, 2008 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

The WSJ is the print mouthpiece of the Republicrat Party, just as Faux News is its broadcast mouthpiece.

What's news is that so many of them refused to respond.

Just remember what "GOP" means. Greedy Old Plutocrats.

Posted by: cal Gal on May 9, 2008 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Economists are trained to answer the question they were asked.

If you had asked them to predict which presidential candidates election would result in fiscally responsible policies you probably would have got a different answer.

McCain offers to cut ear marks and excess spending... and promises to cut war expenses.

But his record shows a history of sponsoring and supporting truly questionable earmarks and as chair of the armed forces committee he has approved more useless military projects than any other legislator.

Obama threatens a real tax cut. His proposal to give a $1,000 tax credit to those making under 50k a year will eliminate a lot of taxes. Plus he will reduce the income tax on social security and veterans benefits.

As for Obama's proposal raising taxes on corporation's foreign operations and carried interest loophole - not going to result in revenue - Corporations will leak the profits out under other loopholes. How many companies are using foreign shells to avoid US taxes on workers in the US? The number is going to increase unless there is enforcement.

BA Economics 1979 current job CPA and Tax Attorney.

Posted by: Steve in Seattle on May 9, 2008 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: valium on May 11, 2008 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

It's amazing how quickly you all attack economists for supporting McCain over Obama, considering most of you are clueless about the economy. Obama wants to set up trade barriers, increase corporate taxes, implement "windfall" taxes on successful business, increase capital gains taxes, penalize companies that outsource, increase subsidies for businesses, and dramatically increase spending on social entitlement programs. All of these are terrible for the economy and will just continue the long but politically popular trend of taking money away from our children to fund our unsustainable lives now. While McCain is hardly perfect when it comes to the economy, he is exponentially less damaging. Instead of attacking anyone who doesn't buy into this "Obama is the savior" garbage why don't you actually learn the basics of microeconomics?

Posted by: Antonio on June 10, 2008 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Instead of blindly backing Obama why don't you look at the history of government fiscal policy to see which one actually has a plan which may work? Educate yourselves and stop acting so ignorant!


Posted by: Jonathan on June 10, 2008 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK



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