“Economists across the Spectrum” Continue to Flee Stimulus Bill by David Boaz

People like Robert Reich, who try to back up the claims of President Obama and Vice President Biden that “economic advisers across the political spectrum support Obama’s plan,” have managed to come up with two names of economists who support the stimulus plan and would not be regarded as left of center: Martin Feldstein of Harvard, a former top economic adviser to President Reagan, and Mark Zandi of Moody's, who was an adviser to John McCain last fall. And now the Washington Post has blown both of those names out of the water. Leaving -- by my count -- exactly zero libertarian or conservative economists on that much-touted spectrum. As the Post notes this morning:
Democrats lost Feldstein on Thursday when the Harvard professor published a Washington Post op-ed declaring the House bill "an $800 billion mistake" laden with ineffective provisions.
As for Zandi,
The 49-year-old economist is a Democratic dream, a former adviser to GOP presidential candidate John McCain who advocates spending over tax cuts as the best way to deliver a quick jolt.
And Democrats have touted him a lot:
In floor speeches and news conferences, Democratic lawmakers confer on Zandi an authority once bestowed on Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman. "I'm just saying what Mark Zandi from Moody's, an adviser to John McCain, is saying: You have to have a package of this robustness if you're going to make a difference," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a recent news conference. ... "I think [he] is a Republican. I am pretty sure he is," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said of Zandi after a recent meeting. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) described Zandi on Fox News as a "conservative Republican." Defending the bill's sizable spending during a recent CNBC interview, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) responded: "I think if you listen to economists like Mark Zandi, who was the economic adviser to John McCain in the presidential election, he has said this is the right mix."
But wait! Post reporter Shailagh Murray actually asked Zandi about his politics.
"I'm a registered Democrat," he acknowledged. He signed up with McCain when Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the candidate's chief economic aide and a longtime friend, asked him to join the campaign's diverse economic advisory team. "My policy is I will help any policymaker who asks, whether they be a Republican or a Democrat," Zandi said.
So . . . the count of Republican or conservative or libertarian economists who support Obama's biggest-spending-bill-in-world-history stands at . . . zero. And hundreds of economists have declared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and other papers that they don't support the plan. It's time for politicians, pundits, and journalists to stop making this claim.

Posted on February 3, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Stimulus Lobbying Frenzy by David Boaz

At RealClearPolitics I wrote about the vast army of lobbyists jockeying for money from the TARP bailout and the stimulus bill:
The $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), better known as the Wall Street bailout, was cooked up mostly in secret by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board. But the bill was no sooner proposed than lobbyists started flooding Capitol Hill and the Treasury to get a piece of it. Every company and industry wanted to be sure that it would be eligible for some of the money, and members of Congress worked to slip their constituents and campaign donors into the bill's 451 pages. By the time it passed, it included special provisions for Puerto Rican rum producers, auto race tracks, and corporations operating in American Samoa (such as Starkist, which is headquartered in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's district). It required that insurance companies pay for mental health benefits and granted tax benefits for victims of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and makers of children's wooden arrows.... Next up is the nearly-trillion-dollar stimulus bill. Don't expect anything different. Already senators are pushing to get their pet projects and home-state interests into the measure. "It's very intense right now," one Washington lobbyist told U.S. News. "I'm working late every day, until 9 o'clock, 10 o'clock. Every imaginable client has been calling me with ways of how their business, or their projects, should fit into the economic stimulus package. It's wild. No idea is too far-fetched for people."
No sooner was the article published than more examples fill the media: "A Republican [in Ohio] called it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." "Cities, towns ready to vie for stimulus funds." "Road Builders Compete for Slice of Stimulus." "West Michigan's stimulus wish list." "A State with a Wish List for Stimulus Spending." "Steel industry lobbyists seem to have persuaded the House to insert a “Buy American” provision in the stimulus bill it passed last week." "JetBlue Goes to Washington to Discuss Economic Stimulus Plan." When you lay out a picnic, you get ants. And this is the biggest picnic in the history of pork-filled picnicking.

Posted on February 2, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Washington’s View of the World by David Boaz

Remember that Saul Steinberg cover for the New Yorker that showed Manhattan's view of America -- just a vague grouping of place names between the Hudson River and the Pacific Ocean? On Sunday we got a glimpse of how the Washington Post views the sprawling diversity of America. In an article on Cobb Island, a waterfront community about 90 minutes from Washington, the Post commented:
Cobb Island has always attracted a variety of people, from government workers to politicians.

Posted on February 2, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Economists across the Political Spectrum. Not. by David Boaz

Robert Reich joins President Obama and Vice President Biden in claiming that "economic advisers across the political spectrum support Obama's plan." Now, President Obama and Vice President Biden probably aren't reading whole newspapers these days, and like their predecessors they don't talk much to people who don't agree with them. So they may have genuinely believed that "Economists from across the political spectrum agree" on the need for a massive stimulus program. But Reich doesn't have that excuse. He's a professor at Berkeley. He has full access to newspapers, email, the Internet, and the help of grad students -- and so he cannot be unaware that lots of leading economists oppose the Obama plan and similar massive spending programs. But then, as I've noted before, he’s often been at wide variance with the facts. This time, knowing that his claim might be doubted, he cited the one conservative economist who has famously endorsed a large stimulus -- Martin Feldstein of Harvard -- but didn't quite acknowledge that Feldstein has called Obama's plan "An $800 Billion Mistake."

Posted on February 2, 2009  Posted to Cato@Liberty

About David Boaz

Click here to learn more.