Friday, September 16, 2011

NY Times: "Yes, everything we ever said about bipartisanship was a lie."

Over at the New York Times this morning, there's an astounding editorial.
As soon as he proposed to pay for his $447 billion jobs plan with tax increases, President Obama knew he was going to do battle with Republicans. But he is also being challenged by Democrats because they cannot face another big pre-election fight or are thinking more about campaign contributors than the country’s best interests.
Is that it? Those are the only two choices? The Democrats are scared of a fight or are putting campaign contributions ahead of the country's best interests? (And let's face it, that's only one choice - political interests are trumping national interests.) And that's the only thing that the Times could come up with? How an idea, Mr. Big-shot New York Times Editorial Writer. Maybe the Democrats, along with the Republicans, recognize the President's "plan" for what it is - a nakedly partisan, cynically political attempt to improve his own public standing at the expense of Congress', a "plan" that contains nothing but a re-hash of all the things he's already done that haven't worked, a "plan" that would do nothing to increase the economic well-being of the country but would, instead, continue to increase the already staggering debt without creating a single job in the process.

What's funniest about the whole thing, though, is the sheer chutzpah of the Times, one of the foremost "bipartisanship" fetishists, whining about what they normally cry out for. This is prima facie evidence that what they want isn't bipartisanship - it's liberal policies. This editorial renders every future cry they make for bipartisanship even more farcical than the ones they've made in the past. "Bipartisanship," like "civil discourse," is a political weapon to use against Republicans, not an actual trait that they really give a damn about, and this editorial is proof of that. Keep that in mind the next time Republicans refuse to agree with Democrats and the inevitable plaintive cries of longing for "bipartisanship" rise from the offices of the Times' editorial staff.

There's more "good stuff" in the piece, too.
Some Democrats oppose the jobs bill for its apparent connection to the stimulus law from 2009, which Republicans lambasted on their way to victories in the midterm elections in 2010. The problem with the stimulus bill is not that it did not work. [LB: There are others, too, of course, but yeah, the big problem obviously is that it did not work.] The problem is that neither the administration nor Congressional Democrats ever persuasively used the evidence of its positive effect on jobs, as documented by the Congressional Budget Office and in private economic analyses.
The reason that they never "persuasively used the evidence" is that there isn't any. Or, rather, that the evidence that exists is so weak that it cannot possibly be used "persuasively" to convince someone who didn't already wholeheartedly believe it without the evidence. The CBO report1 that showed the stimulus working started with the model that they used to design the stimulus, the model that showed "if you do x, y will happen," and used the model to say "look, we did x, therefore y happened - the model proves it!" The Times' own pet Nobel Laureate, Paul Krugman, has spent the last two years telling us that it didn't work (because it wasn't big enough). The idea that it was a colossal success that the administration is being too modest to take the credit for is well beyond silly, rapidly approaching insane.
Economists have estimated that Mr. Obama’s plan, if fully adopted, could create 1.3 million to 1.9 million jobs next year.
Yes, and what did those same economists estimate would happen with Mr. Obama's first plan? That it would prevent unemployment from topping 8%.

Here's the President's economic adviser Cristina Romer, on her way out the door a year ago:
What the Act hasn’t done is prevent unemployment from going above 8 percent, something else that Jared and I projected it would do.
Precisely because such severe financial shocks have been rare, there were no reliable estimates of the likely impact. To this day, economists don’t fully understand why firms cut production as much as they did, and why they cut labor so much more than they normally would, given the decline in output.
So obviously, there's no way they could be over-estimating the impact of doing more of the same thing that worked so well last time, right?
The Republicans will not support the jobs bill, if only because Mr. Obama wants it. Americans need Democrats to step up now, and for Mr. Obama to lead them.
Again, can they not see any other possible reason? Is it really beyond the realm of comprehension that someone might look at that "plan" and think, "you know, that's really not a very good idea"?

Apparently not.

It would be comical if it weren't so damaging...

1 - Congressional Budget Office report:
Estimating the law’s overall effects on employment requires a more comprehensive analysis than can be achieved by using the recipients’ reports. Therefore, looking at recorded spending to date along with estimates of the other effects of ARRA on spending and revenues, CBO has estimated the law’s impact on employment and economic output using evidence about the effects of previous similar policies and drawing on various mathematical models that represent the workings of the economy.

More from Romer:
The reason that prediction was so far off is implicit in much of what I have been saying this afternoon. An estimate of what the economy will look like if a policy is adopted contains two components: a forecast of what would happen in the absence of the policy, and an estimate of the effect of the policy. As I’ve described, our estimates of the impact of the Recovery Act have proven quite accurate. But we, like virtually every other forecaster, failed to anticipate just how violent the recession would be in the absence of policy, and the degree to which the usual relationship between GDP and unemployment would break down.
How do we know that the estimates have "proven quite accurate"? Well, our models suggest that that's what happens. Despite that, as noted above, and in her own words, "there were no reliable estimates of the likely impact" of "such severe financial shocks."

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