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Obama to Republicans on Stimulus Package: I Won:

True, but Obama won by, among other things, promising a net decrease in federal spending. Here he is during the third debate: "what I've done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut.... What I want to emphasize ... is that I have been a strong proponent of pay-as-you-go. Every dollar that I've proposed, I've proposed an additional cut so that it matches."

Obama would have a much better case for Republican deference to his spending plans if he had actually campaigned in favor of the most massive increase in federal spending, ever, instead of as a budget-cutter.

JC:
But it's not like the Republican proposals were pay-as-you-go either, David. The choice here was between the Republican-proposed combination of spending and tax cuts and the President's proposed combination of spending and tax cuts.
1.24.2009 1:42pm
David Warner:
It can't be a good sign when the Appropriations Committee Chair is named David Obey.
1.24.2009 1:49pm
taney71:
Obama the divider.
1.24.2009 1:54pm
Thoughtful (mail):
To be fair, DB, you should note fiscal circumstances have changed significantly since the time of the debates. Imagine if McCain, who back in the day was not in favor of tax cuts, had campaigned against tax cuts. Imagine if he had been elected and his economic advisors said, "We're in a much worse economic recession than predicted during the debates. We need tax cuts." If he then came out with a major tax cut plan, would you seriously be complaining that he never mentioned that during the debates?

I'm NOT arguing in favor of Obama's financial stimulus plan--I think it's going to make things much worse. I'm arguing that your argument against it is inadequate.
1.24.2009 1:56pm
John (mail):
Things have changed a bit since those campaign words. I think. Maybe I'm wrong.

However, all kidding aside, the stimulus program has two basic components: various tax cuts, which will allow people to spend money productively, and various construction projects, which will employ some people for a while and then, when the given project ends, leave them with nothing. It would be better to allow the populace to spend their money on things they want, which will create jobs that will (by definition) endure, than to have the government spend their money on things that will not produce enduring employment, except perhaps by luck.

Not to mention what will doubtless be the staggering amounts that will be to repay the favors of campaign contributors.

People are right to object to this, and Obama should not be giving them the finger in the name of inter-party cooperation.
1.24.2009 1:56pm
Jangler NPL:
IIRC, the "I won" comment was in response specifically to a concern of Minority Whip Eric Cantor that some of the proposed tax cuts would go to people who don't pay income taxes (but do pay sales, payroll, and property taxes)--Obama added that on that particular issue, he "trumps" the Republicans.
1.24.2009 1:57pm
taney71:
How about his statement that Republicans should stop listening to Rush Limbaugh? How about adding Democrats stop reading moveon.org or daily kos?
1.24.2009 1:58pm
Awesome-O:
The mask slips a little bit here. Obama the bipartisan come-together-er yields to Obama the partisan.

This is a relief. Obama has stopped talking about coming together, and now tells us that he is in charge. This gives us on the right an opportunity to dissent. As we all know, dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

Thank you, President Obama, for helping me to be a first-rate patriot!
1.24.2009 2:01pm
Awesome-O:
Things have changed since the debates? Perhaps less than you think. The credit crisis had already hit at full strength. The Dow had dropped several thousand points. McCain had already pulled his "suspend my campaign" stunt. Everyone knew that we were in serious economic doo-doo. The only thing different today is that we have some new unemployment data and we now know that the recession began around the beginning of 2008, but everyone knew that was coming.

The candidates were specifically asked if they would have to modify their campaign pledges in light of the economic crisis. Both said no. I recall being stunned at the time because I thought that it was apparent that we were in a serious crisis, but both men reiterated the promises they made back in the summer when the economy appeared healthy.

McCain was as bad as Obama. I'll concede that. But Obama cannot claim that the promises he made during the debates were overtaken by reality.
1.24.2009 2:10pm
Michael B (mail):
There is more than a note of unguarded ascendency in Obama's "I won." As Althouse noted, reminiscent of Richard Nixon's "I am the President." BHO displays precisely the same temperament with his recent Rush Limbaugh comment.

Perhaps not definitive, but certainly not propitious by any standard other than the standard of raw political power.

Someone might nudge him away from prepossessed campaign trumpery and in the direction of more grounded, more convincing articulations.
1.24.2009 2:24pm
Cornellian (mail):
And Congressional Republicans would have a much better case for
opposition if they hadn't spent the last eight years marching in
lockstep with GW Bush's insanely profligate spending.
1.24.2009 2:28pm
Matthew K:
Can they bring back the feature that allows us to exclude contributors that we would rather not read? this is getting tiresome.
1.24.2009 2:29pm
ari8 (mail):
Boo hoo, Matthew K!. One post about Obama's contradicting his campaign promises, and you need to run for the exits.
1.24.2009 2:32pm
therut (mail):
True but you know what the definition of doing the wrong thing over and over is. And we are going to jump off the cliff and the generations to come will pay and pay big time with less money, less freedom and less security. It may take 50 years for the tide to change but CHANGE will come to combat this dreadful epsiode of goddies by government.
1.24.2009 2:33pm
Pseudonymous Ron Paul:
Thoughtful (mail):
To be fair, DB, you should note fiscal circumstances have changed significantly since the time of the debates.

No, fiscal circumstances have not changed since the debates. You just have to go back and listen to me in the debates and realize that. The situation hasn't changed. What's changed is that mainstream politicians have woken up since then and realized the "fiscal circumstances" have been in trouble for quite some time.
1.24.2009 2:37pm
Bama 1L:
various construction projects, which will employ some people for a while and then, when the given project ends, leave them with nothing

I hadn't realized the proposed bridges not only led to nowhere but would be dynamited when the economy is back on track.
1.24.2009 2:39pm
Matthew K:

Boo hoo, Matthew K!. One post about Obama's contradicting his campaign promises, and you need to run for the exits.

Bernstein comes across as a pro-Israel hack and a Republican hack. Emphasis in both cases on "hack." If I wanted to read badly reasoned right-wing political commentary I'd go to redstate or national review. I come here for legal news and analysis, not this junk.
1.24.2009 2:39pm
Al Maviva:
Matthew K - who is holding a gun to your head and making you read Bernstein? I presume somebody is, because you don't seem to be able to avoid reading him. Is there any way to exclude commenters who only show up to launch ad hominems?
1.24.2009 2:43pm
ari8 (mail):
Yet, you haven't explained what's deficient in his reasoning. You come across as a disgruntled Obama-worshipper, who can't stand to see Obama criticized in the slightest.
1.24.2009 2:43pm
Anon21:
John:
However, all kidding aside, the stimulus program has two basic components: various tax cuts, which will allow people to spend money productively, and various construction projects, which will employ some people for a while and then, when the given project ends, leave them with nothing.

Well, this is arrant nonsense. New high-speed rail lines will suddenly disappear when the two-year spending target window of the stimulus ends? New and renovated bridges will suddenly collapse? Highway construction will revert back to wherever it was before stimulus-funded projects boosted it? The fact is that this country was long overdue for a major infrastructure overhaul even before this recession hit; the economic climate simply allows policymakers to kill two birds with one stone, by creating temporary jobs now, when they're needed most, and also investing money productively for the future.
1.24.2009 2:45pm
Brian Garst (www):
The biggest hack I see here is Matthew K.
1.24.2009 2:46pm
Matthew K:
I actually don't generally read Bernstein's posts anymore, they're not worth it. I've gotten tired of scrolling past them, however, and this one was short. Also someone was posting with the url that used to be the conspiracy -bernstein as their username and that reminded me that it used to be possible to avoid this problem entirely.

As for why this post is useless:
Jangler NPL:

IIRC, the "I won" comment was in response specifically to a concern of Minority Whip Eric Cantor that some of the proposed tax cuts would go to people who don't pay income taxes (but do pay sales, payroll, and property taxes)--Obama added that on that particular issue, he "trumps" the Republicans.

In context, Obama's quote makes a lot of sense. This exact issue had been raised in the campaign, Obama took the same position then that he is now, and the public did not seem to mind. It isn't a decisive argument by any means, but there's nothing inherently wrong about it. As for the other line Bernstein quotes, things have changed a lot since then. Had McCain won he too would be proposing a stimulus package funded in large part by deficit spending.

Shorter Bernstein: I still don't like Obama. Dog bites man. Get back to me when the situation changes.
1.24.2009 2:54pm
pete (mail) (www):

Matthew K - who is holding a gun to your head and making you read Bernstein? I presume somebody is, because you don't seem to be able to avoid reading him. Is there any way to exclude commenters who only show up to launch ad hominems?


Matthew is like Professor Angel in the post below this one. Unable to control his own actions and forced to read and comment on David Bernstein.

Back to the original post: Did anyone seriously believe Obama when he said we has in favor of pay as you go? I know people project whatever they want on the man but I assumed he was lying when he said this. I am willing to bet most of the politicians arguing with now assumed he was lying to.
1.24.2009 2:57pm
MadHatChemist:
If Bush had said this, Democrats would be screaming about how he was silencing dissent and how dissent was true patriotism.
1.24.2009 2:58pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
I do have a problem with the infrastructure proposals. All too often the planning for such projects, especially rail projects, takes so long that by the time they are undertaken the urban reality has changed so much that the money would be better spent elsewhere if at all. Or the money is funneled to benefit the well connected. An example of this is a waterfront road replacement project in Seattle, there is currently a two level viaduct, which does need something done for both safety and capacity reasons. However the current replacement plan involves putting a tunnel in order that people who live on a particular hill get a nicer view even though the tunnel is incredibly more expensive that the other options and will create far more disruption during construction.

How many projects are there that are actually ready to go right now and are only lacking the money to get done? I've seen that same criticism leveled at plenty of new deal era projects, people came up with stuff to do because the money was there to be had, not because the project had actual merit.
1.24.2009 3:01pm
ari8 (mail):
President Obama listened to Republican gripes about his stimulus package during a meeting with congressional leaders Friday morning - but he also left no doubt about who's in charge of these negotiations. "I won," Obama noted matter-of-factly, according to sources familiar with the conversation.

The exchange arose as top House and Senate Republicans expressed concern to the president about the amount of spending in the package. They also raised red flags about a refundable tax credit that returns money to those who don’t pay income taxes, the sources said.
1.24.2009 3:02pm
KC (mail):
Republicans are right. We need to listen to them more; Obama clearly has no idea what he is doing. After all, during their five years of near complete control of the federal government, and eight years of control over the executive branch, they proved that secretive unaccountable government combined with massive spending increases, massive taxcuts and outright subsidies for favored business interests, are the right way to go. I think it would be crazy for anyone to doubt their integrity and honesty when it comes to running the government.
1.24.2009 3:04pm
Baseballhead (mail):
If Bush had said this, Democrats would be screaming about how he was silencing dissent and how dissent was true patriotism.
Instead, Obama said this, and Republicans are screaming about how he is silencing dissent and how dissent is true patriotism.

Shocking! Who could have predicted this would happen?
1.24.2009 3:09pm
Anon21:
MadHatChemist:
If Bush had said this, Democrats would be screaming about how he was silencing dissent and how dissent was true patriotism.

As I recall, the time Bush most directly tried to apply the substance of this argument (not the actual phrase, just the concept that elections have consequences), it was in the context of Social Security privatization. But while the President tried to spend the political capital he thought he'd earned, Democrats wasted little time complaining about any attempt to squelch dissent (I don't think anyone really saw it in those terms then, and most who are pretending to do so now have ulterior motives). Instead, they organized in Congress to hold their caucuses together and deny the GOP bipartisan cover for the privatization proposal. They were largely successful in that effort and in framing the debate, and Bush's proposal went exactly nowhere.

If the Republicans feel like they're being stampeded into supporting a bad stimulus plan now, I would say the best thing they could do is simply present a united front of opposition. Now, the situation is somewhat different from 2005--the minority party has smaller caucuses in both houses of Congress, meaning the practical need for cooperation is smaller, the incoming President is in the middle of his honeymoon, with high approval ratings pretty much everywhere, and the public seems to feel urgent action on the economy is needed. So it may be that Republican opposition is not going to stop this stimulus package from passing in pretty much the form that Democrats want it to. However, it's pretty silly for the GOP to offer as an excuse for not trying to influence the package that Obama somehow intimidated them with this rather banal observation about the political calculus.
1.24.2009 3:10pm
Guest12345:
I think it would be crazy for anyone to doubt their integrity and honesty when it comes to running the government.


Absolutely. How wonderful it is that we now have that excellent ethics order. Too bad it only took three days for Obama to decide to yank it back and say "just kidding." Do you think he realizes that if the order doesn't apply across the board then there is no order?
1.24.2009 3:14pm
bikeguy (mail):

Bernstein comes across as a pro-Israel hack and a Republican hack. Emphasis in both cases on "hack." If I wanted to read badly reasoned right-wing political commentary I'd go to redstate or national review. I come here for legal news and analysis, not this junk.

Mathew K, you need to read this link. I am sure it will help since evidently you feel circumstances are forcing you to read this.
1.24.2009 3:22pm
UnintelligibleLiberal (mail):
how much did iraq cost?
1.24.2009 3:26pm
trad and anon (mail):
Obama would have a much better case for Republican deference to his spending plans if he had actually campaigned in favor of the most massive increase in federal spending, ever, instead of as a budget-cutter.
Both candidates said more or less the same thing in response to that question: the financial crisis didn't in any way affect their ability to fulfill their pre-crisis campaign promises, especially since politicians rarely make good on their campaign promises even in good times. Both of them were lying through their teeth.

You're being a bit misleading, though: what Obama immediately said later is that we're going spend less money by making infrastructure investments now that produce savings later:
SCHIEFFER: All right. Let's go to another topic. It's related. So if you have other things you want to say, you can get back to that.

This question goes to you first, Senator Obama.

We found out yesterday that this year's deficit will reach an astounding record high $455 billion. Some experts say it could go to $1 trillion next year.

Both of you have said you want to reduce the deficit, but the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget ran the numbers on both of your proposals and they say the cost of your proposals, even with the savings you claim can be made, each will add more than $200 billion to the deficit.

Aren't you both ignoring reality? Won't some of the programs you are proposing have to be trimmed, postponed, even eliminated?

Give us some specifics on what you're going to cut back.

Senator Obama?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think it's important for the American public to understand that the $750 billion rescue package, if it's structured properly, and, as president, I will make sure it's structured properly, means that ultimately taxpayers get their money back, and that's important to understand.

But there is no doubt that we've been living beyond our means and we're going to have to make some adjustments.

Now, what I've done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut. I haven't made a promise about...

SCHIEFFER: But you're going to have to cut some of these programs, certainly.

OBAMA: Absolutely. So let me get to that. What I want to emphasize, though, is that I have been a strong proponent of pay-as- you-go. Every dollar that I've proposed, I've proposed an additional cut so that it matches.

OBAMA: And some of the cuts, just to give you an example, we spend $15 billion a year on subsidies to insurance companies. It doesn't -- under the Medicare plan -- it doesn't help seniors get any better. It's not improving our health care system. It's just a giveaway.

We need to eliminate a whole host of programs that don't work. And I want to go through the federal budget line by line, page by page, programs that don't work, we should cut. Programs that we need, we should make them work better.

Now, what is true is that Senator McCain and I have a difference in terms of the need to invest in America and the American people. I mentioned health care earlier.

If we make investments now so that people have coverage, that we are preventing diseases, that will save on Medicare and Medicaid in the future.

If we invest in a serious energy policy, that will save in the amount of money we're borrowing from China to send to Saudi Arabia.

If we invest now in our young people and their ability to go to college, that will allow them to drive this economy into the 21st century.

But what is absolutely true is that, once we get through this economic crisis and some of the specific proposals to get us out of this slump, that we're not going to be able to go back to our profligate ways.

And we're going to have to embrace a culture and an ethic of responsibility, all of us, corporations, the federal government, and individuals out there who may be living beyond their means.

SCHIEFFER: Time's up.
1.24.2009 3:28pm
CB55 (mail):
"What I want to emphasize ... is that I have been a strong proponent of pay-as-you-go. Every dollar that I've proposed, I've proposed an additional cut so that it matches."

Was this statement made before the 2008 Economic bubble bust or after the Bust? Did Obama believe (LOL) the same economic good news, intelligence analysis and information as believed by most Americans and reported by MSM, and business and governing elites before the 2008 Bust announcements?!
1.24.2009 3:28pm
rjb:
Read the papers much sincer september, david?
1.24.2009 3:30pm
trad and anon (mail):
Instead, Obama said this, and Republicans are screaming about how he is silencing dissent and how dissent is true patriotism.

Shocking! Who could have predicted this would happen?
And soon the Democrats will be talking about how every judicial nominee deserves an "up-or-down vote" and should be judged only on the basis of "qualifications," while the Republicans argue that it's completely appropriate to filibuster judicial nominees on the basis of their "extreme" judicial philosophy.
1.24.2009 3:32pm
trad and anon (mail):
Was this statement made before the 2008 Economic bubble bust or after the Bust? Did Obama believe (LOL) the same economic good news, intelligence analysis and information as believed by most Americans and reported by MSM, and business and governing elites before the 2008 Bust announcements?!
After. It comes from the third debate on October 16, a month after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and two weeks after passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act.
1.24.2009 3:39pm
oledrunk3 (mail):
At present, national debt is about 70% of gnp and rising. Gnp is not growing and Debt is rising. There is no way out of this except to raise taxes at some point.
1.24.2009 3:51pm
Fran (mail) (www):
History is a wonderful teacher. See 'Bush 43' years of deficit spending...even when things were great.

I'm all for Cornellian at: 1.24.2009 2:28pm

and KC at: 1.24.2009 3:04pm

All we need to do now is maintain our current lending companion, (sucker),China; to keep dishing it out. They have just learned that when the U.S. catches a cold, they get sick.

We are still bailing out General Motors; will China have the same patience or need?
1.24.2009 3:56pm
CB55 (mail):
trad and anon:

“What I’ve done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut,” Obama said in his final pre-election debate with McCain. “I have been a strong proponent of pay as you go. Every dollar [in spending] that I’ve proposed, I’ve proposed an additional cut so that it matches.”

You should never take a politician at his word when he makes a proposal...because a "proposal" is not the same as a commitment or obligation.
1.24.2009 3:59pm
Nick056:
Professor Bernstein,

Two points are crucial in understanding the deep dishonesty of this posting. First, both McCain and Obama discussed spending cuts that, given the nature of the economic situation, are not realistic. Given the opinion of conservative economists who believe that fiscal policy solutions, not monetary policy solutions, are required at the moment, it is highly likely that even McCain's hypothetical economic team would be proposing a stimulus package that would rate as "one of the most massive increases in federal spending ever" It might be slightly smaller and would doubtless focus more on tax cuts. (Obama's plan, it should be noted, has a rather large provision for tax cuts.) But it would contradict much of McCain's campaign promises. If he were to say "I won" to Democrats, they could point out that he won as a pork avenger, not as an instant tax rebater opposed who put off balancing the budget until after the financial crisis had past. It's also worth pointing out that Obama the PE had talked many, many times about the need to manage the overall debt of this stimulus so as not to spend money without regard to consequence; these statements made as PE bear a direct relationship to the philosophy he expressed in the debate statement, although Bernstein acts as if Obama has abandoned those ideas. The fact is, the financial picture has changed, but Obama has not abandoned the concerns with financial prudence that marked his debate commentary.

Bernstein is being unfortunately dishonest about this.

The second crucial point relates to the first. Broadly, Obama is advocating a larger stimulus package with fewer tax cuts and more infrastructure spending than Republicans would like, and Professor Bernstein is acting as if the public could never have expected this dynamic in voting for Obama and increasing Democratic majorities in Congress.

In sum, Obama's debate statement reflects a desire to cut spending when possible (which is not now, everyone agrees) and not spend without regard to the accumulated debt, which statements he strongly reaffirmed as PE. Also, the present dynamic in negotiations is very predictable: Democrats favor more stimulus spending, less of which is tax cuts, which Republicans oppose on both counts. And David Bernstein wants us to think that some large portion of Obama's voters are surprised at all this and haven't gotten what they bargained for.

Dishonest, dishonest, dishonest. Bernstein should be ashamed of himself for accusing Obama of lying because the financial situation precludes focusing first on "the net spending cut" that Obama discussed.
1.24.2009 4:09pm
trad and anon (mail):
You should never take a politician at his word when he makes a proposal...because a "proposal" is not the same as a commitment or obligation.
I'd say you should never take a politician at their word about anything, especially campaign promises.
1.24.2009 4:20pm
John (mail):
I'm getting back a little late to those who criticized my "when the given project ends, leave them with nothing" remark. This was a reference to the construction jobs that will come to an end.

I would add that I'm not opposed to bridge building and road repair. But to suggest that that is a useful form of stimulus is unrealistic. It is a short term boost to employment in the construction industry, and after the short term it ends. Meanwhile, if the money had instead been given to us (or we were allowed to keep that amount of our money free of taxes) we would be spending it on stuff that we want to buy, and jobs would be created in those sectors. Those jobs would endure, because they are jobs in industries that MAKE THINGS PEOPLE WANT TO BUY. Building a bridge is nice, but it is not much of a stimulus, if it is one at all.
1.24.2009 4:21pm
LM (mail):
DB,

You really ought to provide the quote, the context, and a link to base a post on something like this.
1.24.2009 4:24pm
Apodaca:
Can they bring back the feature that allows us to exclude contributors that we would rather not read?
It never went away:

http://volokh.com?exclude=davidb
1.24.2009 4:27pm
pluribus:
taney71:

How about his statement that Republicans should stop listening to Rush Limbaugh?

That is only partly true. Everybody should stop listening to Rush Limbaugh.
1.24.2009 4:29pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
The Obama "I won" attitude is a poor way to elicit cooperation from the Republicans. Evidently he thinks he doesn't need it, but I doubt it. He doesn't even have all the Democrats firmly in his radical spending camp. I think a lot of people are beginning to realize that unrestrained borrowing and money creation is not without serious consequences. Listen to Democrat Congressman Alan Grayson grill Fed Vice Chair Donald Kohn. Kohn refuses to disclose what assets the Fed is taking on its balance sheet. He refuses to tell the public which banks are getting what he calls "loans," but which are really gifts. Like Kohn Obama thinks he can just tell people to piss off.

He's off to a very bad start.
1.24.2009 4:30pm
PC:
The Obama "I won" attitude is a poor way to elicit cooperation from the Republicans.

Because if there's one thing Republicans are known for it's being cooperative.
1.24.2009 4:36pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Volokh.com gets a little crazy sometimes. You have David Bernstein making silly arguments that get slammed in the comments section, and you have Randy Barnett making interesting arguments yet never allowing comments to be made.

So we end up with long comment sections consisting of "Yes he did," "No he didn't" and no comments at all on interesting issues of substance.
1.24.2009 4:39pm
Nick056:
Hey, apropos of LM, I just found a great description of the "I won" incident from a FOX News story.

(http://tinyurl.com/bvku3p)

This is their description:


The "I won" comment came after Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Republicans believed cutting income taxed [sic] would do more to stimulate economic growth than providing a $500 per person payroll tax refund for individuals earning less than $200,000. The president said, according to those present, that this was an important philosophical divide between Republican and Democrats and that it had already been settled -- and would remain settled -- because he won the election.



In another revealing excerpt:


In the main, Republicans agree with Obama that the stimulus package must contain hundreds of billions in deficit-financed spending and have succeeded in adding a few business-friendly tax cuts to the package.




So "I won" was not about the size of the stimulus, with which Reblicans agree "in the main" but about another, separate matter that constitutes a predictable difference in approach between Dems and Reps. In light of this, Bernstein ought to be reminded that the VC is not a site for partisan dissembling.
1.24.2009 4:40pm
Cardozo'd (www):
This is one of the dumber arguments I've ever seen. What, is he supposed to stick to a campaign promise even though it would make things worse? I think I'd rather a president who deals with the situation in front of him rather than sticking to a political promise for political reasons. This is absolutely stupid.

This is simply moronic. I'm amazed at some of the threads on this site...one run by intelligent people...you'd think they'd attract intelligent people.
1.24.2009 4:41pm
Lib (mail):
I, sadly, am becoming convinced that how Obama would like to be viewed should not be confused with how he will act. One only has to look at his Additional Issues agenda on Whitehouse.gov to get a vague feeling that it's still partisan politics as usual (actually, it looks like he's still running a campaign against someone who wasn't even on the ticket - that's just strange) [emphasis added]:
President Obama will keep the broken promises made by President Bush to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. [...]

[...] Citing the Bush Administration's "unconscionable ineptitude" in responding to Hurricane Katrina[...]
I'm undecided why Obama makes superfluous official statements like this. Is it an intentional attempt to alienate "the other side"? Is it Obama's failure to understand that such inflammatory rhetoric is not appropriate at this time? Or is it the result of Obama's executive incompetence that he doesn't understand how to select the people who will manage the content on the web site appropriately?

If this is the result of Obama's executive inexperience, I'm not only sad, I'm fearful, as it's a heck of a time for OJT (even with extensive executive experience and appropriate temperament, the role of President of the United States is a challenging one to transition into even in the calmest of times).
1.24.2009 4:43pm
PersonFromPorlock:

The Obama "I won" attitude is a poor way to elicit cooperation from the Republicans.

The Republicans will be bought off with a small fraction of the money Obama's dispensing; principled resistance on their part is not to be expected.
1.24.2009 4:44pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
trad:

It comes from the third debate on October 16, a month after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and two weeks after passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act.


That's true, but things were changing rapidly, and I think it took a while for it all to sink in. (By the way, the debate was 10/15, not 10/16.)

As late as 9/15, McCain was still saying "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." As late as 9/26, the Dow was still above 11,000 (36% higher than it is now). As of 10/15, unemployment was 6.1%. Now it's 7.2%.

It took until 12/1 for the National Bureau of Economic Research to formally declare the recession, and it took until 12/5 for Bush to admit that it was a recession.

Just some additional context regarding what happened when.
1.24.2009 4:50pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
What makes any of you think that I think that spending a gazillion dollars through deficit spending on various pork etc it going to 'help'?
1.24.2009 5:00pm
ShelbyC:
Geez. I see lots of whining, but nobody has refuted the point of the post, which is

Obama would have a much better case for Republican deference to his spending plans if he had actually campaigned in favor of the most massive increase in federal spending, ever, instead of as a budget-cutter.


It's not like he's calling Obama a big fat liar.
1.24.2009 5:08pm
trad and anon (mail):
[Editor: one more like that, and you will be banned]
1.24.2009 5:16pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"What, is he supposed to stick to a campaign promise even though it would make things worse?"

In principle I agree. But it this specific situation, it's far from clear that massive spending is going to help. Likely it will make the situation worse. Do you really think that we can just print money and cure both the financial crisis and the economic crisis? If the idea is to repudiate the massive debt, then by all means print money. But this will destroy the currency along with the middle class as it has done every time in the past. Look at Wiemar Germany, Hungary in 1946, Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and Zimbabwe today. The cure is worse than the disease.
1.24.2009 5:20pm
mzeh (mail):
JBG,

Again your quotes are misleading and out of context (at least you are consistent). It is particularly evident in quoting McCain saying the "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Do you remember how criticized he was for being out of touch and how delighted the Dems were with his comments? You live on Google. Go look it up.

And it is quite foolish to look when the NBER formally declares a recession. You don't need to be an economist to know how much of a lagging indicator they are. Clue - look up the definition of a recession. Back to Google, JBG.
1.24.2009 5:29pm
CB55 (mail):
Professor Bernstein:

As any school boy knows a "proposal" to do something is not the same as a "promise" to do something, but I think too many people believe that both words mean the same.
1.24.2009 5:34pm
DiverDan (mail):
Actually, the only thing Obama needed to say was "WE won" - referring, of course to not only the fact that he not only has thw White House, but also that his party holds majorities in both houses of Congress. And I say this as one who has long voted Republican (though of late, I have had to hold my nose in order to do so). As to any "principled resistance" from the other side of the aisle, unfortunately that will require the Republicans to first rediscover their principles. All I can hope for is that Obama, Pelosi, and Reid don't do too much damage to our Country and our Economy in the time they hold the power, while also hoping that their inevitable screw ups are public enough (and the American voters' collective memory long enough) to keep that time short.
1.24.2009 5:41pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"What makes any of you think that I think that spending a gazillion dollars through deficit spending on various pork etc it going to 'help'?"

To frame the question this way is to answer it. However, not all infrastructure spending is pork, except perhaps to a dogmatic libertarian (how are those private roads working out?) and there is strong evidence that the network effect of at least some public spending (this includes some defense spending, incidentally) yields social benefits in excess of the costs.

I do think Obama was factoring in drawing down from Iraq in his net spending cut, and I do think it's absolutely fair to say that the growing consensus on an appopriate remedy for some economic ills has shifted in favor of short term spending, including deficit spending. I do think that Obama is a proponent of eliminating long term structural deficits. I have seen zero evidence that any Republican actually in charge of a governing coalition has made an attempt to achieve that. The prevailing philosophy there is either the principled, but empirically failed, "starve the beast" or the unprincipled "deficits don't matter."
1.24.2009 5:43pm
MQuinn:
ari8 said:

You come across as a disgruntled Obama-worshipper

Many conservatives appear to believe that it is effective to dismiss dissent by brandishing the dissenter a "worshiper" of "the One" or an "Obamabot," etc...

I think that Dems' excitement is justifiable for many reasons, including the fact that Obama is the first African American president and the fact that Obama is taking over for the deeply unpopular Bush. Further, Dems' support of Obama is the result of partisan posturing in favor of a Dem president.

These reasons explain the excitement for Obama in a way that belies labels such as "Obamabot."
1.24.2009 5:44pm
MarkField (mail):

What makes any of you think that I think that spending a gazillion dollars through deficit spending on various pork etc it going to 'help'?


Don't leave us guessing -- do you or don't you think that fiscal deficits are appropriate in the current economic condition?
1.24.2009 5:48pm
Hauk (mail):
Gasp! Somebody alert the media! I think we've just come across the first case of an elected politician reneging on one of his campaign promises!
1.24.2009 5:55pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
mzeh:

It is particularly evident in quoting McCain saying the "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Do you remember how criticized he was for being out of touch and how delighted the Dems were with his comments?


Of course he was criticized "for being out of touch." That doesn't change the fact that he said it. The point is that as of 9/15, when he said it, the crisis was still sufficiently small that he managed to convince himself that it was an OK thing to say. Later, he could not and would not do that. So the fact of what he said and when he said it is a relevant indicator of how the situation evolved.

And it is quite foolish to look when the NBER formally declares a recession.


You could try toning down your hysteria. I made no particular claim about the meaning of their declaration, except to suggest that it's an important event and it belongs on the timeline. If you have a different opinion, good for you.
1.24.2009 6:05pm
SG:
Don't leave us guessing -- do you or don't you think that fiscal deficits are appropriate in the current economic condition?

In the abstract, no. If there's a particular program that is needed or a constituency that is unduly suffering and there is insufficient tax revenue to fund it due to the current economic conditions, than it could be justified in those circumstances, but simply using borrowed money to finance current consumption is exactly what got use into the current mess. It seems highly unlikely that continuing to do the same thing on a larger scale will get us out of it.
1.24.2009 6:16pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Actually, if Obama was proposing running short-term fiscal deficits primarily via tax reductions, with some infrastructure spending thrown in, while also cutting long-term structural deficits by raising the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare to 70, I'd be on his team. I heard some intimations of this in December, but I suspect the Democrats in Congress told him to forget it.
1.24.2009 7:20pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I think that Dems' excitement is justifiable for many reasons, including the fact that Obama is the first African American president
As far as I'm concerned, it was exciting that the first African American president was elected. But now he's just "the president," and he deserves neither extra slack nor extra criticism because he's of partial African descent.
1.24.2009 7:22pm
Calderon:
The literal problem with the "I won" comment is that Eric Cantor and the other Republican Congresspeople he was talking to all won their elections as well. If Obama thinks he has the votes to pass the stimulus, then he can just ask the Democrat leaders to bring the stimulus to a vote and pass it (or not).

Now he's calling for an end to the policitization of abortion, which has about as much change as happening as ending the policitization of slavery before the Civil War.
1.24.2009 7:34pm
just me (mail):
And Congressional Republicans would have a much better case for
opposition if they hadn't spent the last eight years marching in
lockstep with GW Bush's insanely profligate spending.


I agree-the GOP blew it during the Bush years and completely failed to hold the line on spending, when they should have.

These are now the Obama years, and the democrats want to spend even more like drunken sailors.
1.24.2009 7:39pm
just me (mail):
The literal problem with the "I won" comment is that Eric Cantor and the other Republican Congresspeople he was talking to all won their elections as well. If Obama thinks he has the votes to pass the stimulus, then he can just ask the Democrat leaders to bring the stimulus to a vote and pass it (or not).

Excellent point.

What Obama and the dems are looking for with this package is GOP cover so if the stimulus goes south and doesn't do what it is supposed to, they can say "it was bipartisan-look see the GOP supported it too." If the stimulus works or appears to work, the GOP won't be getting the credit anyway. They are obligated to get the best conservative ideas into the bill as possible, but when told to pound sand, they shouldn't feel any obligation to help cover Obama or the congressional democrats butts.
1.24.2009 7:50pm
LM (mail):
DB,

As far as I'm concerned, it was exciting that the first African American president was elected. But now he's just "the president," and he deserves neither extra slack nor extra criticism because he's of partial African descent.

I agree. But we (all of us) deserve a shot at some concerted bi-partisan effort to reverse or at least minimize the downturn. Fomenting division by posting out-of-context and possibly misleading remarks isn't helpful.
1.24.2009 7:50pm
MarkField (mail):

In the abstract, no.


I seriously doubt there's an economist in the country who agrees with this.


Actually, if Obama was proposing running short-term fiscal deficits primarily via tax reductions, with some infrastructure spending thrown in, while also cutting long-term structural deficits by raising the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare to 70, I'd be on his team.


Let's put aside the SS and Medicare issue for now, because that's generally distinct from the current economic crisis (not necessarily future crisis, but neither is responsible for current conditions).

If I understand the remainder of your response, you agree with the concept of running a fiscal deficit, but would prefer to use tax reductions. That strikes me as what we've done for the last 8 years. I see no reason to think the public is in favor of continuing to do that; Obama's comment seems pretty apt if that's the choice.

Moreover, it seems the public generally agrees with the structure of the Obama plan. From an NBC/WSJ poll taken Jan 9-12:

"Thinking about the economic stimulus legislation, which is a more important priority? Tax cuts that will allow people to spend more. Government spending that will help create jobs."

Tax cuts: 33%
Spending: 63%
Unsure: 4%

Whether Obama campaigned on the issue or not doesn't seem all that important if the public favors the plan to this extent.
1.24.2009 7:53pm
trad and anon (mail):
I agree-the GOP blew it during the Bush years and completely failed to hold the line on spending, when they should have.
They did not "fail to hold the line." They intentionally obliterated the line.
As far as I'm concerned, it was exciting that the first African American president was elected.
She was appointed, remember? :-)
Actually, if Obama was proposing running short-term fiscal deficits primarily via tax reductions, with some infrastructure spending thrown in, while also cutting long-term structural deficits by raising the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare to 70, I'd be on his team. I heard some intimations of this in December, but I suspect the Democrats in Congress told him to forget it.
Weren't you in favor of cutting taxes and slashing Social Security and Medicare four years ago too? Someone who prescribes the same medicine for every problem is a quack.

By contrast, we liberals would never have supported a trillion dollars in infrastructure spending and tax cuts before the current economic crisis.
1.24.2009 7:54pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Actually, I'm not in favor of cutting taxes now, not with the deficit as it is. I think "fiscal stimulus" is a lot of Keynesian hooey. But if taxes are cut, they can always be raised. Once the gov't starts "investing" in, say, a new light rail system for Houston, it will never end. And the only good I can see coming out of a current fiscal stimulus, indeed, the only way I can see it not being a complete infaltionary disaster, is to balance it with measures that will alleviate the long-term structural deficit caused by entitlements. Indeed, if one looks at the future of the dollar, I don't see how you can run trillion plus current deficits and NOT take care of long-term deficits and expect the currency to be worth anything.
1.24.2009 7:59pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
And, I should add, budgetary discipline is always good policy. It's too bad there hasn't been any for the last ten years or so.
1.24.2009 8:01pm
just me (mail):
And, I should add, budgetary discipline is always good policy. It's too bad there hasn't been any for the last ten years or so.

That's because the party in power wants to spend money and push through their programs and more than anything else get their spot at the pork trough. The party out of power tries to hold the line, but they don't have enough power to do much and they still want some of that pork.

Probably a good reason to revisit the issue of divided government, and while divided government hasn't always held the line on spending, it doesn't balloon nearly as much as when one party controls everything.
1.24.2009 8:16pm
SG:
I seriously doubt there's an economist in the country who agrees with this.

I was curious, so I did a little googling. Here's a list of quotes from economists who are deficit spending stimulus skeptics.

Did you really think there's unanimity among economists on anything, let alone something like this? Don't you remember Harry Truman's plea for a one-armed economist?

If deficit spending was generally stimulative, then we should be in high cotton. We've run ridiculous budget deficits for the last 8 years. It's going to something like $1.2 trillion dollars this year before the stimulus. Yet the economy is going to hell. Why will even more deficit spending improve the situation? What's the magic number where it works?

This isn't the typical recession. We're not trying to smooth out the business cycle. The economy is over-levered and needs to de-lever. Deficit spending in this environment is like trying to reinflate a tire that has a hole in it. If your goal is to make it to the repair shop then it might be the best option, but it isn't going to get you across country.
1.24.2009 8:20pm
Asher (mail):
The fact is, Obama would've won no matter what he said. It's not like this is some kind of a nefarious bait and switch.
1.24.2009 8:35pm
MarkField (mail):

And, I should add, budgetary discipline is always good policy. It's too bad there hasn't been any for the last ten years or so.


No, it isn't.


Actually, I'm not in favor of cutting taxes now, not with the deficit as it is.


That's a pretty quick change of mind.


Here's a list of quotes from economists who are deficit spending stimulus skeptics.


Being a skeptic of infrastructure spending is not the same thing as saying that "in the abstract" a fiscal deficit is not justified. There are two ways to get to a fiscal deficit, namely tax cuts and/or spending. You ruled out both. The economists you listed might only rule out one.

If there is anybody who claims to be a professional economist and who does rule out both, I beg you to put him in charge of the Republican party.
1.24.2009 8:59pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I didn't change my mind. I said I'd be willing to support temporary tax cuts and even some spending in exchange for dealing with the long-term budgetary consequences of Social Security and Medicare.

Even if you're a Keynesian, you're supposed to run surpluses when times are good, deficit spending when times are bad. We didn't run surpluses, so we can't afford huge deficits.

And, FWIW, everyone urged Reagan in 81-82 to approve a huge "stimulus package." He didn't, unemployment soared temporarily, and after that we had two decades of very nice growth.
1.24.2009 9:08pm
SG:
There are two ways to get to a fiscal deficit, namely tax cuts and/or spending. You ruled out both.

No, I didn't rule out both. I only disagreed with "deficit spending" being good in the abstract, irrespective of what causes the deficit. In fact, I explicitly said that there are circumstances that would justify it.

As I concede, deficit spending may be necessary in some circumstances, but borrowing and spending an unimaginable bunch of money on a bunch of rushed projects simply for the sake of spending money is not a good idea. At least my impression of the current stimulus plan is that it's a price tag first and a set of projects second. That's insanity.

Ask the Japanese how well that plan worked out for them when there real estate marked tanked and took the banking sector with it. Almost two decades of economic stagnation and the 3rd worst debt-to-gdp ratio in the world (behind Zimbabwe and Lebanon). I don't see how this plan meaningfully differs.
1.24.2009 9:16pm
Lib (mail):
"Thinking about the economic stimulus legislation, which is a more important priority? Tax cuts that will allow people to spend more. Government spending that will help create jobs."

Tax cuts: 33%
Spending: 63%
Unsure: 4%
I'm not sure what public opinion polls have to do with economic reality (well, actually, I am sure -- absolutely nothing). My guess is that the 4% of respondents who were unsure were those that had actually knew something about economics and that most of the remaining 96% couldn't even explain the notion of compounded interest, let alone more complex concepts.
1.24.2009 9:19pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I can play that game too. What if we modified the question to:
Thinking about the economic stimulus legislation, which is a more important priority? Tax cuts that will help create jobsallow people to spend more. [More] Government spending that will help create jobs on various projects."
I bet the responses would be quite different. Not that public opinion polls reflect sound economic thinking, but it's amazing that the response was less than 2-1 in favor of government spending, given the wording.
1.24.2009 9:37pm
Moe Lane (mail) (www):
"If I wanted to read badly reasoned right-wing political commentary I'd go to redstate or national review."

Like we'd let people who think that "pro-Israel hack" is mainstream political discourse post at the site in the first place.

Sheesh.
1.24.2009 9:45pm
Andrew_M_Garland (mail) (www):
So, what is the government taking from the society, from the people who work to generate wealth or invest to create jobs? I quote the observations of economists Milton Friedman, and of Russell Roberts at CafeHayek "When a tax cut isn't a tax cut".

The amount of tax that a government imposes is the amount it spends. The timing and amount of tax collections is merely finance.

The Real Tax Burden
1.24.2009 9:47pm
duracom (mail):
There is a real danger that the pork fest congress is trying to pass will make the economy worse not better.

Trillion-Dollar Spree Is Road to Ruin, Not Rally

We are in the midst of a crisis caused by so many financial institutions borrowing too much money.

Somehow, a critical mass of policy makers now believes that the correct response is for the U.S. government to borrow too much money.

Perhaps the most disturbing comparison is this one: When President George W. Bush was first elected, total federal government spending was about $1.7 trillion.

In other words, the difference between federal outlays and federal revenue this year will be bigger than the entire government was as recently as 2000.
1.24.2009 10:08pm
bc (mail):
It's a MONEY grab people. Over the past 30 odd years, we've turned our national balance sheet into a train wreck. The only question now is "Who gets screwed?". Do we screw our creditors? Do we screw our productive class? Do we screw the poor? The old? Do we screw the politically powerful urban financial intermediators? Do we screw the state employees? Unions? Who gets screwed...that is the only question.
Obama's mostly saying who he wants to not see screwed; the poor, and the hardest working albeit lowest risk taking among our middle class. That leaves posturing big brained albeit risk taking urban elites, and "old money" asset holders. Works for me.
1.24.2009 10:16pm
cognitis:
Obama and Geithner will need BOJ approval for any federal budget just as did Bush and Paulson.
1.24.2009 10:23pm
Ken Hahn (mail):
Upon careful consideration, I'd just as soon Obama didn't keep his spending cuts pledge. If he does, the MArine Corps Band will be about all thats left of the military.
1.24.2009 10:48pm
MarkField (mail):

I'm not sure what public opinion polls have to do with economic reality (well, actually, I am sure -- absolutely nothing).


Nobody said they did. I cited the poll as evidence that the public approved of Obama's plan. That's germane to the post.


I didn't change my mind. I said I'd be willing to support temporary tax cuts and even some spending in exchange for dealing with the long-term budgetary consequences of Social Security and Medicare.


Yes, and I said let's put aside SS and Medicare because they aren't relevant to the current problem. You keep bringing them up as though they're relevant now (I acknowledged that they could be relevant in the future).

In addition, your comments have gone both ways. You did say that you'd support some temporary tax cuts and some spending. Then you said you were not in favor of cutting taxes.


Even if you're a Keynesian, you're supposed to run surpluses when times are good, deficit spending when times are bad. We didn't run surpluses, so we can't afford huge deficits.


This isn't correct. Keynes did say we should run a balanced budget over the economic cycle, but that just means we should do so going forward. The past is a sunk cost.

I also can't forbear to note that we were running a surplus when times were good. Somebody undid that, and ran up huge deficits during an economic expansion (weak though the expansion was). That seems pretty relevant in light of the original post, where the controversy is over what the voters were choosing.


And, FWIW, everyone urged Reagan in 81-82 to approve a huge "stimulus package." He didn't, unemployment soared temporarily, and after that we had two decades of very nice growth.


I hardly think "everyone" urged Reagan to do that in 81-82. Lots of people didn't, and for a very good reason -- there was plenty of opportunity to apply monetary policy to correct the problem. That's not true today, when interest rates are at or near the zero bound.


I only disagreed with "deficit spending" being good in the abstract, irrespective of what causes the deficit.


Well, deficits are only caused by one thing -- spending more than you take in -- so I don't really understand what you're saying now. I originally asked if fiscal deficits were appropriate for the current economic conditions, and you said "in the abstract, no". That seems to me to rule them out, but if that's not your position, you lost me.
1.24.2009 10:56pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
What Obama and the dems are looking for with this package is GOP cover so if the stimulus goes south and doesn't do what it is supposed to, they can say "it was bipartisan-look see the GOP supported it too." If the stimulus works or appears to work, the GOP won't be getting the credit anyway. They are obligated to get the best conservative ideas into the bill as possible, but when told to pound sand, they shouldn't feel any obligation to help cover Obama or the congressional democrats butts.
The problem is that it isn't going to work. The CBO last week indicated that much of the spending wouldn't hit for at least two years when it would supposedly be hitting the rebound, and a decent amount not until Obama next has to face the electorate. When Obey was challenged with these inconvenient facts, his response was essentially that it is too important to pass this bill, and we didn't have time to look at the details. Obama is making noises about making sure that the money gets spent quickly, but if had had more experience in Congress, he would know that is impossible with infrastructure spending. Besides, he isn't writing the bill, Obey and Rangle are doing it.

This is all a bunch of smoke and mirrors. The massive spending has little to do with stimulus, and everything to do with the Democrats having full control of both elective branches for the first time in 14 years, and trying to make up for lost time in spending. The only tie to stimulus is that is the excuse given for the massive spending increases that the Democrats in Congress have been slavering for for those 14 years.

And even the "tax cuts" have been massaged so as to do minimal good, by cutting out those who could use the money for creating jobs, and giving it instead to many who don't pay federal income taxes (or in many cases, any taxes whatsoever).

I will submit that the reality is that the economy would rebound faster if the "stimulus" package were defeated.
1.24.2009 11:06pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Yes, and I said let's put aside SS and Medicare because they aren't relevant to the current problem. You keep bringing them up as though they're relevant now (I acknowledged that they could be relevant in the future).
Of course they are relevant now. If you are a Chinese (or, ftm, American) investor trying to decide whether to buy a 30 year t-bill, you want to know whether the U.S. is on a course for long-term financial stability, or long-term ruin.
1.24.2009 11:18pm
David Warner:
A. I think Obama is actually right on Limbaugh. Rush thrives in opposition; not so much the Republican Party or those who believe the country would be well served should that Party not be.

B. Obama's Team of Urkels is about as close as we're going to get to the Platonic Guardians that are the unspoken assumption upon which government spending enthusiasts build their world view. Let's pay close attention to how the technocrats do this go round - what say you?

C. Mark Field, I'm mostly with you, but I'm afraid that your claim that the past is a sunk cost would come as quite a surprise to our Chinese creditors. Our economy's been on various flavors of Keynesian juice for a long time - maybe its time to enter rehab and reduce our long-term cost structure, starting with letting the world police itself and getting real on entitlements.

"Investment" funded by further borrowing is difficult to distinguish from buying on margin. Is that really the business we want our government to be in?
1.24.2009 11:18pm
Anderson (mail):
Perhaps Obama will nuke Gaza and nail down the DB vote.

I mean, REALLY. Spending during a recession! What absurd ideas will The One promulgate next?
1.24.2009 11:32pm
LM (mail):
Mark Field,

And, FWIW, everyone urged Reagan in 81-82 to approve a huge "stimulus package." He didn't, unemployment soared temporarily, and after that we had two decades of very nice growth.

I hardly think "everyone" urged Reagan to do that in 81-82. Lots of people didn't, and for a very good reason -- there was plenty of opportunity to apply monetary policy to correct the problem. That's not true today, when interest rates are at or near the zero bound.

Actually, I think the reason there was so much room to apply monetary policy was the same reason you wouldn't want to apply it -- inflation. But that's also why a major fiscal stimulus would have been nuts. With interest rates pushed to 20% in an effort to bring down double-digit inflation, an unemployment spike was the lesser evil. Today's situation bears no resemblance to that.
1.24.2009 11:35pm
SG:
I originally asked if fiscal deficits were appropriate for the current economic conditions, and you said "in the abstract, no". That seems to me to rule them out, but if that's not your position, you lost me.

You asked if deficits were appropriate without qualifying what would cause the deficits. There are circumstances where deficit spending can be appropriate, but you didn't give any qualifications as to what was the cause of the deficit. As a general principle, I'm against deficit spending. It might be justifiable, and the current economic conditions increases the number of circumstances where it is justifiable, but the current economic conditions is not sufficient justification alone. You need to specify what's causing the deficit.

I'm not trying to be pedantic. I've heard enough people say that it doesn't really matter how the stimulus funds are spent as long as it gets spent. Yet when Japan tried this, it just didn't work to revive their economy and they saddled themselves with tremendous debt. It would have been smarter not to have engaged in the deficit spending.
1.24.2009 11:42pm
cognitis:
Until recently, Japanese and Chinese cared very little in buying 10-yr notes or 30-yr bonds about investment returns; instead, both participated in every treasury auction regardless of either rates or trade data. US has exchanged with both Japan and China low import tariffs for continuous financing of US debt. In other words, both Japan and China buy treasuries not for cause of investment returns but rather for cause of trade policy.
1.25.2009 12:02am
Dr. Fred in PA:
The GOP is criticized and rightly so for spending like drunken sailors. So now they're aren't allowed to ever "dry out"? They should oppose this porkfest and let the Dems own it completely. Infrastucture accounts for 3%(!) of this bill. The rest of it, including the so-called tax cuts consists of spending. (Giving money to people who didn't earn it isn't a "tax cut".) I will never in my life understand those on the left who are willing to cede their liberty to a bunch of idiot bureaucrats in the name of "fairness".
1.25.2009 12:14am
cognitis:
All who compare American conditions now to Japan's conditions in 1990's only regurgitate the pap fed by the Media, since US and Japan not only differ but even oppose by most standards: Japan runs world's largest current account surplus, while US runs largest deficit; Japan holds world's 2nd largest forex reserves, while US holds small reserves; Japan is world's largest exporter of high value-added goods (high-paying jobs), while US is world's largest importer; Japan is world's largest exporter of capital, while US is world's largest importer; and both oppose in many other ways. As the former Tiger Management GP pointed out recently in several interviews, the average Japanese household in '90s had $100,000 in savings, while today 85% of Americans have 0 to negative net worth. So why do the Media compare US now to Japan in '90s? Everyone knows Japan did fine even in '90s, as no Japanese starved and few stayed unemployed for long; the media then deceive Americans, most of whom suspect by now much worse, with tolerable pictures of '90s Japan in order to distract Americans from pictures of their grim future.
1.25.2009 12:43am
BGates:
Congressional Republicans would have a much better case for
opposition if they hadn't spent the last eight years marching in lockstep with GW Bush's insanely profligate spending.


Their case wouldn't be more correct under those circumstances, it would be less hypocritical. Still, to keep Cornellian happy, I'd like to ask any Congressional Republicans posting on this thread to please stop.
1.25.2009 12:50am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"Obama would have a much better case for Republican deference to his spending plans if he had actually campaigned in favor of the most massive increase in federal spending, ever, instead of as a budget-cutter."

I'm pretty sure that most people who voted for Obama understood that he would offer a direct stimulus plan if the economy got as bad as it is now. I'm also pretty sure that most people who voted for Obama could give a r*t's *ss about "Republican deference" right now.

"What makes any of you think that I think that spending a gazillion dollars through deficit spending on various pork etc it going to 'help'?"

A lot of us don't regard rebuilding critical infrastructure, upgrading schools, offering health care coverage, and investing in new energy technology as "pork."
1.25.2009 2:31am
mzeh (mail):
Juke,

The fact that McCain was widely ridiculed for his comment kinda ruins your argument that his comment was a bellweather of the state of the economy on 10/15. It really shows the exact opposite doesn't it? Also, lest we (well, you) forget, there were some rather significant developments between the date of his comment and 10/15. Hint - Google TARP and stop by Yahoo Finance to check the movement in the Dow between those dates. You might learn something. In retrospect, I am sure you would agree that your quoting an out of touch comment made a full month before the debate, is really not a very strong argument. Quite foolish actually.


You could try toning down your hysteria. I made no particular claim about the meaning of their declaration, except to suggest that it's an important event and it belongs on the timeline. If you have a different opinion, good for you.


Hmmm, so calling one of your foolish comments "foolish" is hysteria. Well, I we guess we have a rather inflated view of our own self worth. You are a funny one, JBG. And I am not letting you get away with claiming this is just a matter of opinion. You brought up the NBER declaration not for some abstract "timeline" reason but in the context of the state of the economy on 10/15. No-one with any understanding of economics would make such an argument. It is, well, foolish,

On last tip JBG: your kneejerk need to contradict everything Prof Bernstein posts make you say some rather inane things. We see your trolling pattern repeated ad nauseum on multiple threads. Try a little discretion.
1.25.2009 8:27am
ThomasD (mail):
Nice of everyone to make arguments for the President.

Obama can tell people 'I won.' Perhaps a better formulation would be to sat 'the American people elected me.' But that would imply that they elected him to, you know, lead.

If someone disagrees with your plan telling them 'I won' is hardly a profile in leadership. It is arrogant and petty, but most of all it does nothing to refute the opposition.

Perhaps Obama can take some cues from the leaders here and actually explain away his critics. If he want's to play 'things were different then' then let him do so. Whatever he believes, he needs to understand he's not a Senator anymore; he needs to state his case as a leader.

Because, you know, winning an election has consequences
1.25.2009 8:30am
PersonFromPorlock:
This approach to the problem, that approach to the problem... you know, it's perfectly possible we're in the position of a cancer patient debating krebiozen versus laetrile.
1.25.2009 9:33am
Teh Anonymous:
In response to Al Maviva: very belated but - if you use Firefox you can install a Greasemonkey script that lets you ignore commenters.

http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/26315

There's also this one which filters certain individuals out. Though IMO, it wouldn't be the same VC without Sarcastro.

http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/35584

(I only use the first one and cannot vouch for the second in any way. Just stumbled on it by accident, while searching for the first.)
1.25.2009 10:42am
greyarcher315 (mail):
Without getting in to which ecconomic plan is better, I gave a poblem with the answer Obama gave, as well as the Limbaugh comment tells me Obama seems to think being elected means everyone should just do as they are told s Big Brother nows best. In America, you can't stop the other side from saying you don't like what you are doing. If he has the votes in Cingress Obama can ignore them, but telling them to be quiet becuse they lost doesn't work here.
1.25.2009 10:51am
MarkField (mail):

Of course they are relevant now. If you are a Chinese (or, ftm, American) investor trying to decide whether to buy a 30 year t-bill, you want to know whether the U.S. is on a course for long-term financial stability, or long-term ruin.


Oh, c'mon. Now you're being silly. Social Security and Medicare are unrelated to the current economic crisis. Full stop. They may (and I emphasize "may" because I don't agree with you regarding SS) be a problem in the future, but that has nothing to do with the question of deficit spending in the short term.


The CBO last week indicated that much of the spending wouldn't hit for at least two years when it would supposedly be hitting the rebound, and a decent amount not until Obama next has to face the electorate.


There is no such CBO report. That was a ... well, I'm inclined to call it a lie put out by some Congressional Republicans. See here.


Mark Field, I'm mostly with you, but I'm afraid that your claim that the past is a sunk cost would come as quite a surprise to our Chinese creditors.


That comment didn't mean that I think we should default on prior debts. Of course not. It only means that we have to decide how to handle the current crisis going forward.


"Investment" funded by further borrowing is difficult to distinguish from buying on margin. Is that really the business we want our government to be in?


I don't have any problem with it in two circumstances: when we're talking about public goods; and when economic conditions justify it as they do now.


You asked if deficits were appropriate without qualifying what would cause the deficits.


I asked if they were appropriate under current economic conditions. You answered "in the abstract, no".

You keep mentioning "what caused the deficit", and this comment is confusing me. As I said, deficits have only one cause. From your last post, I now think you mean something like "is there a good cause to spend the money on?". If that's correct, I don't understand its relationship to the issue of deficit spending. I assume we should spend money ONLY on good causes.


Yet when Japan tried this, it just didn't work to revive their economy and they saddled themselves with tremendous debt.


The Japanese most certainly did NOT try this. As cognitis points out, Japan has a huge surplus, not a deficit.


The GOP is criticized and rightly so for spending like drunken sailors. So now they're aren't allowed to ever "dry out"?


Not without a political price for the hypocrisy. That was the original point of my response to the post.
1.25.2009 10:52am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
mzeh:

there were some rather significant developments between the date of his comment and 10/15. Hint - Google TARP and stop by Yahoo Finance to check the movement in the Dow between those dates


That's already been mentioned in this thread, and I haven't said anything to deny that. As usual, you're responding to your fantasy of what someone meant, rather than what's actually been said.

your kneejerk need to contradict everything Prof Bernstein posts make you say some rather inane things.


If you look at his threads over time, you'll find that roughly 90% of them contain this many comments from me: zero. So you might want to consult a dictionary regarding the word "everything." Speaking of hysteria. You also might want to tell us where in my comment I contradict bernstein. I don't.

But I'm sure your "kneejerk need" to defend bernstein, even when he's not being attacked, is earning you points with the teacher.

================
taney:

How about his statement that Republicans should stop listening to Rush Limbaugh?


How about the fact that that's not what he said? He said this:

You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done


Why do you think it's OK to omit the "just?" Do you really think it doesn't add any meaning? Or maybe you did it because Fox did the same thing in their headline, and you get all your information from Fox headlines, without paying attention to what was actually said.

grey:

the Limbaugh comment tells me Obama seems to think being elected means everyone should just do as they are told s Big Brother nows best


Do you mean "the Limbaugh comment" that Obama actually made, or the bastardized taney/foxnews version?

And how much credibility do you think you have when you make it obvious that you're willing to pretend he said things he didn't say?
1.25.2009 11:13am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
David, I think it's clear you've committed lèse majesté here, and the Royalists are gonna let you get away with it.
1.25.2009 11:24am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
I love the smell of a Freudian slip in the morning.
1.25.2009 11:37am
SG:
From your last post, I now think you mean something like "is there a good cause to spend the money on?". If that's correct, I don't understand its relationship to the issue of deficit spending. I assume we should spend money ONLY on good causes.

That we should spend money only on good causes doesn't imply that we will spend money only on good causes. Your formulation puts the decision about deficit spending before the decision on what the money gets spent on. That almost guarantees poor decision making.

Your question is analogous to "is it wise for a person to go into debt". In general no, but a mortgage might (or might not...) be a good idea. Without qualifying the reason for and amount of the debt, there's no way to meaningfully answer yes without giving a stamp of approval to huge credit card debts. In general the presumption should be not to go into debt, while allowing that specific conditions might justify violating the general principle.

If you want to talk about specific reasons to engage in deficit spending, then it can meaningfully be debated. But the current plan on the table seems not to be a good idea. Infrastructure spending may be a good idea, but it's not going to stimulative in the short-term.

And that's even assuming the current problem is a under-consumption and the economy needs pump-priming - an assumption that I don't agree with.

The Japanese most certainly did NOT try this. As cognitis points out, Japan has a huge surplus, not a deficit.

Japan runs a trade surplus and the Japanese people are a nation of savers, but the Japanese government is profoundly indebted. Much of that debt comes from a public works building spree in the '90s in an attempt to stimulate an economy hit by a popped real-estate bubble that splashed onto their financial markets. And it didn't work.

I've seen it argued that the problem wasn't the concept, it was the execution. Which comes back to my point that it isn't sufficient to say "the current conditions justify deficit spending". If you spend poorly, you don't resolve the current conditions and you've add a bunch of debt.

Right now, the US is benefiting from the perception of being the only safe harbor for money. Things could get very ugly very fast if we take on so much debt that we lose that perception. That would be a very black swan. I fear that we're rushing towards it.
1.25.2009 11:58am
MarkField (mail):

That we should spend money only on good causes doesn't imply that we will spend money only on good causes. Your formulation puts the decision about deficit spending before the decision on what the money gets spent on. That almost guarantees poor decision making.


While I do think there are economic conditions when deficit spending is a good idea, that doesn't mean I think we should spend it on unproductive things.


Right now, the US is benefiting from the perception of being the only safe harbor for money. Things could get very ugly very fast if we take on so much debt that we lose that perception. That would be a very black swan. I fear that we're rushing towards it.


Yes, and our reputation as a safe harbor would be severely damaged, if not irretrievably ruined, if we adopted policies which pushed us further into Depression instead of trying to get us out.
1.25.2009 12:55pm
SG:
Yes, and our reputation as a safe harbor would be severely damaged, if not irretrievably ruined, if we adopted policies which pushed us further into Depression instead of trying to get us out.

I disagree. Regardless of the outcome, there will always be legitimate debate over what the correct policy should have been. No one wants a depression; if the chosen policy doesn't avoid one, it will be accepted as an honest failure.

What will ruin our reputation as a safe harbor is if our debt load reaches the level that default becomes a measurable possibility. That's the scenario that I fear the current stimulus package creating. There's now trillion dollar deficits planned for the next few years, and that's not counting the looming entitlement crisis.
1.25.2009 1:29pm
Steve P. (mail):
Wait, wait, hold on. Obama won?
1.25.2009 1:48pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
sg:

Things could get very ugly very fast if we take on so much debt that we lose that perception.


Now you tell us. Years ago Cheney told us "deficits don't matter" (as I think thales mentioned upthread). I guess he just meant deficits instigated by the GOP.

By the way, most of our national debt has been accumulated by GOP presidents:

since 1776, we have racked up a cumulative deficit — the national debt — of nearly $10 trillion . . . and fully three-quarters of that was racked up under just 3 of our 43 presidents: Reagan, Bush, and Bush.


Thank goodness the GOP stands for fiscal responsibility. Just imagine how much they would have borrowed otherwise!
1.25.2009 2:22pm
Shannon NY (www):
I know a lot of Republicans think Obama is pushing his win in their faces. According to this article others are calling Obama a "closet republican".
1.25.2009 2:45pm
just me (mail):
JBG please note that the democrats controlled at least one if not both houses of congress during Reagan, and Bush 41 and 43's terms in office. It is congress, not the president, that is in charge of the budget-the president can certainly advocate for and push things he desires, but in the end he only gets to sign the budget that is given to him.
1.25.2009 2:48pm
mzeh (mail):
Juke,

What on earth are you talking about? I never said that you denied there were some rather significant developments between the date of McCain's comment and 10/15. And to think you accuse me of "responding to your fantasy of what someone meant, rather than what's actually been said". Oh, the irony.

My point was quite simple - it was foolish of you to bring up a much derided quote made a full month earlier as context to the economy on 10/15, particularly because (as you freely admit) there were some rather significant developments in the interim. If you won't concede this one, you'll never concede anything. (I ain't however holding my breath).
1.25.2009 4:43pm
MarkField (mail):

Regardless of the outcome, there will always be legitimate debate over what the correct policy should have been.


I can't agree with this. Some policy proposals are not legitimate.

That said, in general economists agree that fiscal deficits are appropriate under current conditions. I assume you'd agree, then, that trying that deserves support.


What will ruin our reputation as a safe harbor is if our debt load reaches the level that default becomes a measurable possibility.


Agreed that this would ruin our reputation. So would lots of other things, including dropping our GDP by going into a Depression. At the moment, that strikes me as the greater risk.
1.25.2009 5:00pm
SG:
I can't agree with this. Some policy proposals are not legitimate.

My presumption is that anything that makes it through the Congressional sausage grinder will fall somewhere within the mainstream of legitimate proposals. It may fail, but it will be perceived as a legitimate attempt.

That said, in general economists agree that fiscal deficits are appropriate under current conditions. I assume you'd agree, then, that trying that deserves support.

Well, I'd love to see the plan. It's insufficient to say that deficit spending needs to be tried - by my reckoning we've been trying deficit spending for 8 years. If deficit spending were sufficient, we'd have no problem to be discussing. The details really do matter.

As I said, I think that current conditions increase the range of circumstances that justify deficit spending - that bar has been lowered - but it's not as if we suffer from a lack of government spending. We may not be spending on the right things, but it's a hard case to make that we're not spending enough in raw dollars. Government spending as a percentage of GDP is near non-WWII record levels.

If a $1.2 trillion deficit (pre-stimulus) is insufficient, what's the right number? $2 trillion? 3?

So would lots of other things, including dropping our GDP by going into a Depression. At the moment, that strikes me as the greater risk.

I agree that (at this point) the US going into a depression is more likely than a US default, but I don't think that would necessarily harm the US position as the safest haven for money. A depression in the US will be felt, and felt harder, globally.

It's like the two guys trying to outrun the bear; the US doesn't have to be a good investment, it only has to better than the alternatives. If we really do enter a depression, the US is even more likely to be ahead of the rest.That's certainly been the case to date. As global economic woes increase, it has become cheaper for the government to borrow money and the dollar has strengthened.
1.25.2009 6:02pm
Hans Bader (mail):
I have spent more time studying economics than various Clinton appointees, like incoming Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

I have an economics B.A. and graduate level coursework in econometrics, legal practice involving economics (such as practicing international trade and anti-dumping law), and briefly computed economic statistics at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But when I talk to journalists about problems in Obama's economic plans, they never treat me as an economist, and label me as a conservative lawyer instead (I do have a Harvard Law degree).

But journalists like Peter G. Gosselin and David Broder refer to Timothy Geithner as an economist when he pushes Obama's bailout proposals.

But Geithner has neither a doctorate nor a bachelor's degree in economics (although "international economics" was part of his Masters Degree studies).

He's no more an economist than I am. And he arguably got taken to the cleaners by crafty bankers in negotiations leading to his prior financial bailouts -- the costly, multibillion dollar bailouts that are his claim to fame, and which fleeced taxpayers in the process.
1.25.2009 6:26pm
NickM (mail) (www):
For those posting here who support the current stimulus package, do you also support including "notwithstanding any other law" language for the infrastructure projects (similar to the border fence authorization) to forestall environmental law challenges (ESA, NEPA, etc.) that could delay the projects by years?

Nick
1.25.2009 6:27pm
Swede:
how much did iraq cost?

Ask Pelosi. She cut the check.
1.25.2009 8:09pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
shannon:

others are calling Obama a "closet republican"


That's an interesting article, but I think the link is broken. Try this.

=================
just:

the democrats controlled at least one if not both houses of congress during Reagan, and Bush 41 and 43's terms in office


Let's take a closer look, since that's a bit oversimplified. The GOP controlled the Senate for 6 of Reagan's 8 years. And the GOP controlled the House for 6 of GWB's 8 years, and the Senate for 4 of his 8 years. During the twenty-year period we're talking about, Dems had control of both houses for only eight years. So Republicans in Congress had plenty of influence over spending during that time.

It is congress, not the president, that is in charge of the budget


That's an even worse oversimplification. The federal budget process begins when "the President submits to Congress a detailed budget request for the coming federal fiscal year." The president has a lot of influence over the budget, because the original budget request starts with him.

And there's no question that GWB, with lots of help from the GOP, drove spending through the roof. Don't take it from me. Take it from the people at Reason magazine, as quoted by AEI:

Bush the Budget Buster

…it's time for small-government conservatives to acknowledge that the GOP has forfeited its credibility when it comes to spending restraint. … When it comes to spending, Bush is no Reagan. Alas, he is also no Clinton and not even Nixon. The recent president he most resembles is in fact fellow Texan and legendary spendthrift Lyndon Baines Johnson--except that Bush is in many ways even more profligate with the public till.

…Bush has not vetoed a single spending bill during his tenure in office. To the contrary, he has signed every bill crossing his desk, including huge education, farm subsidy, and transportation bills. He has made only the most feeble efforts to rein in pork-barrel spending or offset new programs with cuts in existing ones.

What makes this all the more frustrating is that Bush, unlike Reagan and Clinton, faces a Congress that is controlled by his own party, which claims to be dedicated to smaller, more efficient government. Yet Bush has shown no leadership on spending reform--and Republicans have rebuffed even the mildest criticisms of their spendthrift ways. It seems incontestable that we should conclude that the country's purse is worse off when Republicans are in power.


So for the GOP to suddenly take on the role of born-again budget hawks is quite disingenuous.

=================
mzeh:

it was foolish of you to bring up a much derided quote


It's awfully convenient for you to now claim that it was "much derided." That's not what certain people were saying at the time. On 9/16, National Review defended McCain's remark, saying this:

the fundamentals of the economy are strong … and for Obama to spread misinformation and panic, albeit unintentionally, only makes the problem worse


So NR was deriding Obama for deriding McCain for saying "the fundamentals of the economy are strong." The fact that McCain was willing to make the statement, and that NR was willing to defend the statement, indicates that things changed rapidly between 9/15 and 10/15. Which is what I said before.

=================
hans:

when I talk to journalists about problems in Obama's economic plans, they never treat me as an economist, and label me as a conservative lawyer instead


Maybe they label you as a conservative lawyer because you're a conservative lawyer.

=================
swede:

how much did iraq cost?


Ask Pelosi. She cut the check.


Prior to 1/07, the GOP was in charge of both houses of Congress. Did she cut the check then, too?
1.25.2009 10:17pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
How timely. Speaking of GOP spending, the latest article on the VC front page cites this, from WSJ:

If increases in government spending matter, then Mr. Bush is worse than any president in recent history.


Under GWB, the national debt grew from $5.7 trillion to $10.6 trillion. An increase of 86%.
1.25.2009 10:28pm
Ricardo (mail):
Yes, Obama's comment was made in October 2008, one month after McCain said the economy's "fundamentals are strong" and when many were debating whether the U.S. is in recession. That debate has ended due to circumstances on the ground and Obama seems to be reacting to those circumstances. Obama has also abandoned plans to let the Bush tax cuts lapse -- again, this is also not a wise thing to do when we are in the middle of a recession. If you are going to criticize Obama for abandoning his campaign promise about cutting spending, why not also congratulate him for abandoning his campaign promise about raising taxes?

But all this is partisan point-scoring anyway. If a politician made a promise on September 10, 2001 to get rid of certain security procedures that inconvenience the flying public, don't you think January 2002 would be an inappropriate time to follow through on that promise? When the circumstances change, it is entirely appropriate to change policy.
1.26.2009 12:57am
mzeh (mail):
Juke,

It was not the NR defending McCain's comment - it was a single NR blogger on their media blog. Rather sloppy of you to confuse this with an official editorial (or yet another example of a misleading quote from our JBG). It's sad that one can't take any of your purported evidence at face value.
1.26.2009 1:49am
David Warner:
JBG,

"It's sad that one can't take any of your purported evidence at face value."

It's hard work, but I think one can learn something from it, just requires an industrial strength grain of salt. JBG is Hamilton Burger with twice the IQ and half the scruples.
1.26.2009 6:19am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
mzeh:

It was not the NR defending McCain's comment - it was a single NR blogger on their media blog


Thanks for that nice example of a distinction without a difference. The point remains that McCain's statement was not as universally "derided" as you claim.

Rather sloppy of you to confuse this with an official editorial


Rather sloppy of you to pretend that I presented it as "an official editorial" when I didn't present it as "an official editorial."

Anyway, did the NR editors fire the guy? Did they force him to run an update, or a correction? Did they run an editorial disavowing what he said, or saying something contrary to it? Of course not. That means his statement had their tacit approval.

================
warner:

half the scruples


Of course it would be too much to expect you to show evidence backing that accusation.

And speaking of evidence, some evidence regarding your own "scruples" can be found here.
1.26.2009 7:19am
Hoosier:
David Warner.

Hamilton Burger?

"Ham" Burger?

Really?
1.26.2009 10:32am
mzeh (mail):
Juke,

No, no, no. Are you seriously saying that if a newspaper or magazine does not overtly disavow something a columnist or blogger says (or even fire said blogger), that the comment has tacit approval? This is stunning ignorance of how publishing works. Look, the New York Times and WSJ, as two examples, have multiple bloggers that say many things - check here and here. When these bloggers write something, they do not talk for the NYT or WSJ. When Steven Levitt expresses an opinion on the popular NYT Freakonomics Blog (a great read BTW), he is most certainly not speaking for the Times. Only an official editorial does. Come on - this is basic stuff.

(If you actually read some of the National Review blogs - particularly "the Corner" - you would notice that the bloggers disagree with each other quite regularly).

By once again refusing to admit your error, you are digging yourself into a bigger and bigger hole.
1.26.2009 11:06am
cognitis:
As this blog uses many eminent and famous graduates of top influential law schools, I hope one or more would give an opinion on liability of a medium for libelous but anonymous posts. Recently, the famous injunction against medium Wikileaks granted by a California judge advertised issues of judicial independence and the above issue amoung many others. As I've only recently noticed this blog, I'm not certain that this blog's scope include professional opinions.
1.26.2009 12:01pm
David Warner:
Hoosier,

Um, there is that. But I was referring to this guy. Judging by JBG's devastating riposte, there may be hope for old Perry yet.
1.26.2009 4:20pm
LM (mail):
David Warner:

It's hard work, but I think one can learn something from it, just requires an industrial strength grain of salt.

At a certain point all you taste is salt.

JBG is Hamilton Burger [LM: i.e., "HamBurger"] with twice the IQ and half the scruples.

If by "IQ" you mean "flavor" and by "scruples" you mean "calories" I think I see a business opportunity.
1.26.2009 6:55pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
mzeh:

By once again refusing to admit your error


The error is yours, in suggesting that McCain's remark was universally derided.

You're saying it was wrong for me to attribute the statement to NR (even though it was written by an NR writer and published in NR) because it was not "an official editorial." Really? Oddly enough, I see that Jonah Goldberg wrote the following words:

The New York Times says


Even though he wasn't talking about "an official editorial." I could show you countless similar examples. It's completely normal and unremarkable to attribute a quote to a publication if it's written by someone who works for that publication and if the quote is published by that publication. Even if it's not "an official editorial."

You're being pedantic, in a feeble attempt to direct attention away from what I demonstrated: certain people defended McCain's remark. It was not as universally "derided" as you suggested.
1.26.2009 9:13pm
mzeh (mail):
Um, JBG, where on earth did I say that McCain's quote was "universally" derided?? May I again remind you of your own words: "As usual, you're responding to your fantasy of what someone meant, rather than what's actually been said." (This is getting rather enjoyable).


It's completely normal and unremarkable to attribute a quote to a publication if it's written by someone who works for that publication and if the quote is published by that publication. Even if it's not "an official editorial."


Ok, show me one example of someone attributing a quote to a publication that was written by a blogger. To restate my earlier comment as a question: when Steven Levitt expresses an opinion on the popular NYT Freakonomics Blog, would be accurate to state that the "New York Times says..."? (Don't duck the question)
1.26.2009 9:41pm
David Warner:
LM,

"At a certain point all you taste is salt."

No, that's just how I act when I'm changing my mind. It hurts, you know.
1.26.2009 9:44pm
mzeh (mail):
One more thing JBG, do you accept you were wrong in saying that because the NR did not disavow the blogger's comment, "his statement had their tacit approval"?

Again, don't duck the question.
1.26.2009 9:49pm
Fury:
jukeboxgrad:

"It's completely normal and unremarkable to attribute a quote to a publication if it's written by someone who works for that publication and if the quote is published by that publication. Even if it's not "an official editorial."

Perhaps, but it's sloppy no matter who does it. Mentioning Jonah Goldberg has not bearing on it being bad form.

And let's not forget what started this:

"Anyway, did the NR editors fire the guy? Did they force him to run an update, or a correction? Did they run an editorial disavowing what he said, or saying something contrary to it? Of course not. That means his statement had their tacit approval."

As mzeh points out, there have been bloggers disagreeing on web-sites since blogging started. To suggest the statements by NRO blogger Greg Pollowitz are tacitly approved by National Review because NRO did not indicate otherwise, is well, silly.

Accept it, mzeh called you on making an absurd point. Trying to spin your way out of it and calling his catch pedantic is disingenuous. Accept it and move on.
1.27.2009 8:38am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
mzeh:

where on earth did I say that McCain's quote was "universally" derided?


Where on earth did I claim you used that exact word? But it's what you suggested by being so emphatic about how McCain's statement was supposedly so "derided" that it couldn't be considered meaningful, and that it was wrong to bring it up.

show me one example of someone attributing a quote to a publication that was written by a blogger


It makes no difference whether the person is a blogger or some other kind of contributor. In the example I cited regarding Jonah Goldberg, he said "the New York Times says" regarding words that were written by Deborah Solomon. And please note that unlike me, he did not provide a link. And who is Deborah Solomon? Someone who happens to write a weekly column for the New York Times Magazine. And who did I cite? Greg Pollowitz, who writes for NR multiple times per day, typically. The fact that one writes something called a "blog" and the other writes something called a "column" has no relevance to the issue we're discussing. If anything, Pollowitz's connection with NR is closer than Solomon's connection with NYT. Especially because she writes for the NYT Magazine, which is quite separate from the editorial page.

By the way, here and here you can find examples of Weekly Standard using the same formulation ("New York Times says") even though they are not citing "an official editorial." Examples of Power Line doing the same thing are here and here. Examples of NR doing the same thing (aside from the Goldberg example I already cited) are here, here, here and here.

So let us know why all those folks repeatedly implied (according to you) that they were citing "an official editorial" even though they weren't.

do you accept you were wrong in saying that because the NR did not disavow the blogger's comment, "his statement had their tacit approval"?


If he had said something truly extraordinary and unacceptable, they could have and would have taken steps to distance themselves from what he said. But they didn't. So that is indeed a kind of approval. They have ultimate responsibility for what appears on their site, and they're perfectly capable of speaking up, after the fact, if someone says something of which they truly disapprove.

===============
fury:

it's sloppy no matter who does it. Mentioning Jonah Goldberg has not bearing on it being bad form.


Let us know if you're really claiming that all the examples I just cited represent "bad form." And if it is "bad form," let us know if you can find a single example of anyone, anywhere, complaining about how National Review, Weekly Standard and Power Line regularly use what you claim is "bad form." It appears that your sensitivity to "bad form" is highly selective.

To suggest the statements by NRO blogger Greg Pollowitz are tacitly approved by National Review because NRO did not indicate otherwise, is well, silly


See above.
1.27.2009 10:23am
mzeh (mail):
JBG,

You must be kidding. Your exact words were:


The error is yours, in suggesting that McCain's remark was universally derided.


Now you say you are ignoring my exact words (which were "much derided" ) but somehow imputing that what I really meant was "universally derided" (a quite significant difference in meaning). This from the person who said: "As usual, you're responding to your fantasy of what someone meant, rather than what's actually been said."

Oh the irony, oh the irony.

So you still believe that the blogger's quote had the NR's tacit approval. When I set the trap, I hoped your over-inflated ego and refusal to accept your error would lead you head-first. I was not disappointed. Here is another NR blogger, who also just happens to be the editor of the NR, disagreeing and calling McCain's comment a "mis-step": link.

That's game, set and match JBG.
1.27.2009 10:54am
Fury:
jukeboxgrad:

"Let us know if you're really claiming that all the examples I just cited represent "bad form." And if it is "bad form," let us know if you can find a single example of anyone, anywhere, complaining about how National Review, Weekly Standard and Power Line regularly use what you claim is "bad form." It appears that your sensitivity to "bad form" is highly selective."

Highly selective? No, not at all. My point was that *regardless* of who does it, I consider it bad form. I don't particularly like not knowing who specifically Goldberg is referring to. But this is a side issue from what you initially commented on regarding NRO and tacit approval.
1.27.2009 11:42am
mzeh (mail):
Fury,

Looking at some of the links that JBG provides, it also appears that JBG conflates "news" pieces with opinion. It is generally acceptable for news pieces to credit the publication only. It is certainly not acceptable to do so for opinion pieces. It is, as you say, sloppy no matter who does it.

As yet another example, when Paul Krugman says "many of the (Obama's) plan’s opponents aren’t arguing in good faith" it would be extremely sloppy to attribute that quote to the New York Times. Or when, William Kristol says: "Indeed, if justice is seeking to give each his due, one might say that Dick Cheney aspires to being a just man. And a thoughtful one, because he knows that justice is sometimes too harsh, and should be tempered by civility", a very sloppy comment would be to say the the New York Times defends Cheney.

I think nearly everyone, with at least obvious exception, would agree with that.
1.27.2009 12:06pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
mzeh:

You must be kidding. Your exact words were:


You must be kidding. Your exact words were:

it was foolish of you to bring up a much derided quote


By claiming it was "foolish" for me to even bring it up, you were indeed suggesting that it was universally derided. Otherwise, it wouldn't be "foolish" to mention it.

Practically any statement any candidate makes is going to be "much derided," by someone. But you were claiming that McCain's statement was so "derided" that it was "foolish" to even mention it. This implies that it was universally derided, or at least something very close to that.

Here is another NR blogger, who also just happens to be the editor of the NR, disagreeing and calling McCain's comment a "mis-step"


Yes, and please don't bother to point out that it took Lowry until 9 days later to get around to "calling McCain's comment a 'mis-step.' " If McCain's remark was as "derided" as you claim, it would not have taken Lowry 9 days to wake up.

And calling McCain's statement a "mis-step" is nowhere close to 'deriding,' which means "express contempt for or ridicule." Saying McCain made a "mis-step" is hardly an expression of "contempt."

And I notice you're ducking my question: where's an example of someone complaining about this practice when NR, WS and PL do it? The absence of a complaint (from both left and right) tends to indicate that the practice is normal and unremarkable (especially when a link is provided, which is what I did, and which those publications do sometimes but not always).

it also appears that JBG conflates "news" pieces with opinion


I cited examples of both, showing that those publications follow the practice with both. Even with opinion pieces.

It is generally acceptable for news pieces to credit the publication only.


Nice job moving the goal posts. Earlier you implied that it's wrong "to credit the publication only" unless you're citing "an official editorial."

And please tell us where on the NR media blog page is the reader warned that the material there is only opinion, and not news.

It is, as you say, sloppy no matter who does it.


How odd to notice that these publications are so "sloppy." And how odd to notice that you can't find a single example of someone making a complaint about this aspect of their sloppiness.

As yet another example, when Paul Krugman says … Or when, William Kristol says


You're citing examples from the NYT op-ed page. That part of the paper is clearly labeled as "Opinion." And the editor of that page explicitly says (in an article linked from the main Opinion page) that this area is "a lively page of clashing opinions, one where as many people as possible have the opportunity to make the best arguments they can," and "a venue for people with a wide range of perspectives, experiences and talents." And that "what our editors expressly do not do is change a point of view."

So it would indeed be misleading to take an opinion piece by Krugman or Kristol and obscure the fact that it was an opinion piece by Krugman or Kristol.

In contrast, there is nothing whatsoever on the NR media blog page to indicate that it contains opinions, rather than news. Or to indicate that the staff writers filling that page are expressing views that are substantially independent of the NR editors.

And with regard to Kristol, he has a distinct track record of expressing views at odds with the views of the NYT editors. So this is a reason why his NYT quotes need to be labeled clearly. Does Pollowitz have a comparable relationship with NR? Of course not. Most of the time he's expressing views closely aligned with what you find elsewhere at NR. When there are disagreements, they tend to be relatively superficial.

===============
fury:

My point was that *regardless* of who does it, I consider it bad form.


And you are apparently alone, because you seem to be unable to find anyone (from the left or the right) making the complaint (prior to this thread). Even though the publications I mentioned do it frequently.
1.27.2009 3:25pm
LM (mail):
Fury,

Maybe it ought to be considered bad form -- that would be my preference -- but beyond a certain point form follows practice. This practice is so pervasive it can't reasonably be said to be bad form.
1.27.2009 3:56pm
mzeh (mail):
JBG,

Before I rebut your nonsense once more, please tell me how you define "universal" in this context? Under any legitimate definition what you just said is foolish, but I want to be sure that I don't reply to my "fantasy of what someone meant, rather than what's actually been said."
1.27.2009 4:19pm
mzeh (mail):
JBG,

I note you haven't as yet responded to my question. That's ok - I am sure you are a busy person and don't have time to continually check for updates on this thread. It just would have saved some time to know if you are using a broad or narrow definition of "universal". Ok, on to the rebuttal:


And calling McCain's statement a "mis-step" is nowhere close to 'deriding,' which means "express contempt for or ridicule." Saying McCain made a "mis-step" is hardly an expression of "contempt."


This is a complete red herring. I never said Lowry was one of the people deriding McCain so I just don't get your point. My link to the Lowry comment was simply to rebut your inane remark that the original NR blogger's comment had the NR's "tacit approval". This is a bit of a sideshow to our main discussion, but I may as well enjoy it if you continue to hold on to an untenable position.

Your argument trying to turn the meaning of "much derided" into "universally derided" is very strained. I do believe words do have to be interpreted in context and there can be an interpretation element. You seem to have an ambivalent attitude on this (Lest we forget your immortal words: "As usual, you're responding to your fantasy of what someone meant, rather than what's actually been said."). However, my argument that it was foolish for you to use McCain's statement as a bellweather of the state of the economy holds perfectly well if his comment was just "much derided". You are really straining to say it must be "universally derided". You appear to be defining "universally" very narrowly as you give a single quote from a NR blogger as a rebuttal. It appears that your position is if a single person (or a very few) defended McCain, then McCain's quote is a reasonable piece of evidence to show the economic position. This is an absurd position to take. I also pointed out that the comment was by an independent blogger and did not have the backing of the full NR editorial board (you still seem to disagree on this). If it did, your argument would be stronger, but I think still quite weak. IMHO, the overwhelming (note - not "universal") negative reaction to McCain's comment evidences that it is a very poor indicator of the true economic position. (Yes, I googled "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" and I am quite comfortable with using the exact word "overwhelming". There were a few people defending McCain but on grounds that really don't help your argument - that "fundamentals" are different from the state of the economy).

As regards your attempt to draw a distinction between an oped columnist and a blogger, I will just repeat the earlier question you ducked: When Steven Levitt expresses an opinion on the popular NYT Freakonomics Blog, would it be accurate to state that the "New York Times says..."?

I think that if you read the NR blogs (I recommend it - you may learn something) you will note that the bloggers disagree on many issues beyond the superficial - items like the "surge" or Palin's competence are two examples. The NR has a range of conservative voices from the libertarian side to the big government advocates. Liberals sometimes think that conservatives speak with one voice.

Lastly, you say that I am ducking your question: "where's an example of someone complaining about this practice when NR, WS and PL do it?" To make you happy, I went through all the links. The two WS links you provided referred to news pieces, where (as I stated earlier) it is acceptable to refer only to the publication (remember news pieces are edited after all). The same for the PW links. So these really don't help your case. As regards the NR links, two are to news pieces, one is actually to an official editorial (a little sloppy there JBG - sad that I can't take your links at face value) and the third is a reference to a TV critic. I guess you could argue either way whether you need specifically say that comment was by the "New York Times TV critic". In any event, this is rather thin gruel for your argument. The most analogous position is in my Steven Levitt question above. A blog is not an edited news article. If you would just answer that then at least we would have a basis for further discussion.
1.28.2009 4:58am
mzeh (mail):
One typo above: "independent blogger" should be "individual blogger"
1.28.2009 6:51am
David Warner:
mzeh,

If JBG were liberal, you wouldn't be arguing with a wall. The effort is, however, appreciated. You may be the first to outlast him.
1.28.2009 11:02am
mzeh (mail):
David Warner,

Thanks for the encouragement. Comparing this to arguing with a wall is a great analogy. In my "discussions" with JBG, he will almost never concede on even the smallest point even where he is clearly wrong. It is almost a parody at times.
1.28.2009 11:50am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
My link to the Lowry comment was simply to rebut your inane remark that the original NR blogger's comment had the NR's "tacit approval".


If Lowry had a serious problem with McCain's statement, or with Pollowitz's defense of McCain's statement, Lowry would not have waited 9 days to speak up, and he would have found a stronger word than "mis-step." And he would not have sat on his hands when Goldberg also defended McCain.

the comment was by an independent blogger and did not have the backing of the full NR editorial board


Pollowitz writes for NR several times a day, typically. I am not aware of any other site that regularly presents his work. What makes him "independent?" Is Goldberg also "independent?" And how do you know that Lowry's comment had "the backing of the full NR editorial board?"

the overwhelming … negative reaction to McCain's comment


Let's take a look at that supposedly "overwhelming … negative reaction." A memeorandum archive page from 9/15 is here. I see negative comments from Steve Benen, firedoglake, Yglesias, Mother Jones, and Krugman. And some people no one ever heard of. That's "overwhelming?" Was McCain's statement "derided" at National Review, Weekly Standard, Power Line, or Fox? With the exception of Lowry meekly calling it a "mis-step," a belated 9 days later, no. And here's a Fox report from 9/17, essentially defending McCain. Their reporter said "the administration continues to make the case that the fundamentals are strong." And aside from Pollowitz defending McCain at NR, so did Goldberg, on 9/16.

There was a negative reaction from the Obama campaign and from lefty bloggers. That's what you call "overwhelming?" Where is your proof of lots of people outside that group forming an "overwhelming … negative reaction?"

When Steven Levitt expresses an opinion on the popular NYT Freakonomics Blog, would it be accurate to state that the "New York Times says..."?


That page is here. Do you notice the first word in the window title? Do you notice the large heading at the top of the page? It's this word: "Opinion." Please tell us where on the NR media blog page is the reader warned that the material there is only opinion, and not news. I already asked you that question. Why are you ducking it? Maybe it's because you said this:

It is generally acceptable for news pieces to credit the publication only.


There's nothing on the NR media blog page to indicate to the reader that the page contains something other than "news pieces." Which means you're admitting that what I did is "generally acceptable."

The two WS links you provided referred to news pieces


Wrong. In my comment here, I cite two WS articles. The first is this. That article points to this NYT piece. That piece is clearly labeled "Political Memo," which means it is not a news piece.

As regards the NR links, two are to news pieces, one is actually to an official editorial


Wrong. If you claim one of those articles cites "an official editorial," then show us the link. I cited this piece by Goldberg. He doesn't give us a link, but he is quoting from this piece, which is clearly labeled "Opinion."

Goldberg has obviously done what you claim is unacceptable. Yet you have shown no examples, from either left or right, of anyone criticizing him for doing so. That's because what he did is, for better or worse, a common practice. In my opinion, what he did would be OK if he provided a link. But I cited two examples where he did it without even providing a link.

he will almost never concede on even the smallest point even where he is clearly wrong


I admit to being wrong when I'm proven wrong. About a dozen examples can be seen via here.
1.28.2009 8:26pm
mzeh (mail):
JBG,

Your points are just getting ridiculous. Firstly, my calling Pollowitz "independent" was a typo that I corrected long (long, long) before your response. You are really clutching at straws.

Um, are you saying this link is not an official editorial?? Because it is labeled "Opinion"?? (I feel like I am losing brain cells just reading your comments).

And again, we see you creating obfuscation by not providing a full quote. Your excerpt "he will almost never concede on even the smallest point even where he is clearly wrong" is quite different from "In my "discussions" with JBG, he will almost never concede on even the smallest point even where he is clearly wrong."
1.29.2009 9:08am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
mzeh:

my calling Pollowitz "independent" was a typo that I corrected


Oops, my mistake. I overlooked your separate comment with the correction.

are you saying this link is not an official editorial?


Yes. This piece is not "an official editorial." NYT Editorials are labeled with the following heading: "Editorial." (Examples here, here, here, here, here and here.) If that piece was "an official editorial" it would be labeled as such, and it's not.

Because it is labeled "Opinion"?


Editorials appear on a page with the heading "Opinion," but they have a separate heading indicating that the piece is an editorial. This piece does not have that heading.

I notice you're still ducking lots of questions. Like this one, that I'm now asking for the third time. Please tell us where on the NR media blog page is the reader warned that the material there is only opinion, and not news.
1.29.2009 1:25pm

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