Dean Baker Is Scared...
Hoisted from Comments: Understanding Danny Okrent: I Don't Think We Can Blame Donald Luskin for This

Hoisted from Comments: KHarris on Economic Journamalism Today

At, KHarris writes:

Now hold on. Gene Epstein is not a right-winger. He has no desire to serve the interests of either side of a partisan debate. Wanna know how I know that? I heard him say it on NPR. I believe it was their afternoon PRI (?) business show.

The guy has a book that accuses well regarded economists of making stupid mistakes. He gets air time on the same radio show that routinely lets the WSJ OpEd page's new tax liar, whatsisname Moore?, have air time.

Odd thing is, the same show does some of the least business-friendly business reporting in the mainstream press. I can't figure out what their editorial policy is, but it is mighty clear they have decided not to bother with high-quality views from the right.

Hah! If Gene Epstein did not want to serve Republican interests, why does he blame Krugman and not the Bush Administration, which does the same standard "warranted payroll employment growth" calculation that Krugman does?

The situation is awful. Let me explain:

Since 1981, there have been no high-quality views from the right on economic issues supporting Republican positions. For example, Andrew Samwick has a high-quality view from the right on economic issues. He thinks Bush Administration fiscal policy has been a colossal botch:

Vox Baby: First Things First: I don't disagree with Calculated Risk in his assessment of former Senator Kerrey's and Senator Rudman's admonition to form a commission on "Securing Future Fiscal Health." CR writes:

Everyone should agree that the most immediate fiscal problem is the structural General Fund deficit. Excluding future health care costs, the structural deficit is around 4% to 4.5% of GDP. This serious problem has been caused almost exclusively by Bush's policies. And imagine if the economy slows next year, as many people expect, adding a cyclical deficit on top of the huge Bush structural deficit.

So isn't it reasonable to suggest that Mr. Bush and the GOP fix the structural deficit first, before addressing other long-term issues?

Of course. CR is correct in his diagnosis of the immediacy and the size of the problems of the General Fund deficit. As I have discussed in earlier posts (here and here, for example), the appropriate target for the General Fund deficit is for it to average to zero over a business cycle. A corollary to that is that the General Fund should be in surplus during the non-recessionary parts of that business cycle. (A slightly weaker target that I would also accept is that the Debt/GDP ratio not trend upward over time.) This Administration seems to have no problem submitting budgets that don't conform to this target. Certainly the Congress doesn't aspire to a higher standard.

So as much as I would like to see the looming financial crises with entitlement programs averted, CR's requirement of the current leadership in the White House and the Capitol is a reasonable one to impose as a precondition for agreeing to a bipartisan effort to address what will be the most immediate budget issues in a decade or two. It is also a good test of whether there is any reason at all to return them to those positions after the November elections this year and in 2008.

The media think that they have a problem. The media know that if they put on a balanced program of high-quality views from the left and the right, everyone will have nothing but contempt and scorn for the positions of the Republican politicians. They will then get yelled at from the right--and that, they think, is a problem.

In order to avoid being yelled at from the right, the media think that they have to be unbalanced--to match a high-quality view from the left with a low-quality view from the right. Sometimes the low-quality view from the right comes from a high-quality person who is temporarily putting forth a low-quality view in the hope of someday getting into a position where they can do some good for the world. Sometimes the low-quality view is put forward by somebody incompetent and unqualified.