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June 02, 2011 8:00 AM GOP-Aligned Economists: “Don’t Take Us Seriously”

By Jonathan Bernstein

WaPo’s Felicia Sonmez reports that John Boehner has released a statement from over 150 economists calling for spending cuts to go along with the debt limit increase. While I’m no economist, the letter isn’t exactly rocket science…well, anyway, it’s certainly not economics. The entire statement:

An increase in the national debt limit that is not accompanied by significant spending cuts and budget reforms to address our government’s spending addiction will harm private-sector job creation in America.  It is critical that any debt limit legislation enacted by Congress include spending cuts and reforms that are greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority being granted to the president.  We will not succeed in balancing the federal budget and overcoming the challenges of our debt until we succeed in committing ourselves to government policies that allow our economy to grow.  An increase in the national debt limit that is not accompanied by significant spending cuts and budget reforms would harm private-sector job growth and represent a tremendous setback in the effort to deal with our national debt.

They’re not even trying, are they? Not only is there nothing resembling an argument for why spending cuts would create jobs, but the statement goes considerably farther than that — they claim (twice!) that increasing the debt limit without spending cuts and budget reforms would cost jobs. That, to be blunt, is preposterous nonsense.

Remember, there’s a regular budget process going on, regardless of the debt limit situation. House Republicans have plenty of chances to get “significant spending cuts and budget reforms” through the normal budget process; indeed, they just demonstrated that they are perfectly capable of getting the cuts, at least, through the normal budget process just a few weeks ago when they dealt with the FY 2011 budget.

There is, of course, not even a remotely plausible economic argument supporting the idea that any particular policy has to be attached to the debt ceiling instead of the normal budget process in order to work. None. Nada. Zip. It’s a political claim, not an economic one. And as a political claim it seems, well, ridiculous.

(By the way, my favorite sentence? The one about how “policies that allow our economy to grow” must precede “balancing the federal budget and overcoming the challenges of our debt.” To translate: Oh, and by the way — screw the deficit and give us more tax cuts).

Look, I realize these things are just talking points, just part of the spin war…I don’t know why this one set me off.  I guess I’d like to see something resembling a serious debate about these issues. I suppose I’d also like to see economists take themselves seriously, instead of being willing props for whatever the messagemeisters of the Republican Party think they need. This? It’s just garbage.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.
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Comments

  • John on June 06, 2011 1:42 PM:

    And let's not ever, ever introduce raising more revenue like raising taxes on the wealthy (or just letting the Bush cuts expire) into the equation, only "spending cuts and budget reforms." Any economist who doesn't include increasing revenue as one means of budget balancing and debt reduction is just being a tool.