Thursday, April 19, 2007
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Who are the go-to economists for the 2008 campaign?
For the 2008 campaign, the six leading campaigns have each signed up their first-string economic policy teams. These advisers don’t hold the sway that the political aides do, but they can ultimately have a bigger effect on the world. If the next president is going to reform health care, attack climate change or address middle-class anxiety, the solution is going to be shaped by these policy advisers. As Douglas Holtz-Eakin, John McCain’s director of economic policy, says, “If you’re specific about what you want to do and you win, you have a mandate.”Read the whole thing to see who's advising who. I'm relieved to see that Obama is getting decent economic advice -- his chief economic advisor is University of Chicago professor Austan Goolsbee.
Leonhardt's conclusion emphasized a point I've made here in the past: The truth is that if you put the economic advisers, from both parties, in a room and told them to hammer out solutions to the country’s big economic problems, they would find a lot of common ground. They could agree that doctors and patients need better incentives to choose effective medical care. They would probably hit upon education policies along similar lines, requiring that schools be held more accountable for what their students are, and are not, learning. They might suggest a carbon tax — a favorite idea of Mr. Mankiw — to deal with global warming. And they would shore up Social Security by reducing benefits for high earners, as Mr. Hubbard has suggested.
Not all of these ideas are politically feasible at this point, but presidential campaigns can change what’s feasible. Here’s hoping that this year’s crop of economic advisers has the courage of their convictions.posted by Dan on 04.19.07 at 11:01 AM
Don't you really mean to say that you hope whoever wins the presidency has the courage to adopt the advice of his economic advisors, particularly professional economists? I'm not sure that's what the country needs, now or ever. There are sound reasons why the ideas you mention are not politically feasible--the electorate won't stand for them. Don't discount the collective common sense of the electorate. President Truman once stated that if you lined all the economists in the world up end to end they would still point in all directions. That's not the kind of thinking I am comfortable with guiding governmental economic policy.posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 04.19.07 at 11:01 AM [permalink]
The "go-to economists of 2008." I bet that'll be a segment on VH1's "I Love the 2000s" show a decade from now.
Seriously though: Do all economists think schools should be held accountable for what students learn? What is the role of parents in this? It seems to me that communities get the schools they want. Obviously schools need to be held accountable, but only after parents fulfill their obligations. Treating schools as factories -- you're given an input (an uneducated kid), and expected to produce a specific output (an educated kid) -- is an obscene simplification.
The other things listed -- carbon tax, SS benefit reductions for the wealthy, the insertion of some rationality into the health care system -- are fine. But I don't get the schools point.posted by: Andrew Steele on 04.19.07 at 11:01 AM [permalink]
Dan, why aren't you someone's go-to economist?posted by: Zathras on 04.19.07 at 11:01 AM [permalink]
> Do all economists think schools should be held accountable for what students learn? What is the role of parents in this? It seems to me that communities get the schools they want. Obviously schools need to be held accountable, but only after parents fulfill their obligations.
Steele apparently believes that a school that doesn't work should be funded if the reason that it doesn't work is outside its control.
He's wrong. We don't fund public schools to fund good public schools. We fund public schools to educate folks. If said education doesn't happen, there's no reason for any funding, and that conclusion applies regardless of the reason for the failure.
If Steele objects, perhaps he'll tell us why we should spend money trying to educate folks who not only refuse to be educated but interfere with the education of others. And no, "we need to try" doesn't count. Good intentions and large piles of money can not turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.
Useless Sam Grant,
"The electorate won't stand for them" because a lot of people are economically illiterate: some macroeconomic principles can be counter-intuitive to the layman. (e.g Free Trade vs. Protectionism)
Secondly, the "collective common sense of the electorate" isn't always correct, nor does it necessarily always produce the maximum benefit. It wasn't too long ago that a flat-earth theory was considered "common sense."posted by: Biomed Tim on 04.19.07 at 11:01 AM [permalink]
Biomed Tim--spoken like a true "I'm from the gov't and I'm here to help" type. Of course, all us unwashed peasants are too stupid to know what's good for us, so we need people like you and some economists to tell us.
Rubbish.posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 04.19.07 at 11:01 AM [permalink]
Economists in Washington who have the courage of their convictions are generally on leave from PERMANENT academic and think-tank jobs.
chswposted by: chsw on 04.19.07 at 11:01 AM [permalink]
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