Learned Helplessness and Macroeconomic Policy
Yes, Present-Value Calculations Are Useful: Yes, the High-End Tax Cuts Are as Painful to the Government as the Social-Security Shortfall

We Really Would Be Much Better Off without the Republican Party

Ezra Klein:

The GOP’s jobs agenda: Now more than ever: Academic books pack about 600 words to a page. Normal books clock in around 400. Large-print books — you know, the ones for kids or the visually impaired — fit about 250. The House GOP’s jobs plan, however, gets about 200 words to a page. The typeface is fit for giants, and the document’s 10 pages are mostly taken up by pictures. It looks like the staffer in charge forgot the assignment was due on Thursday rather than Friday, and so cranked the font up to 24 and began dumping clip art to pad out the plan.

Which is odd, because there’s nothing in this plan that hasn’t been in a thousand other plans. When I asked David Autor, an economist at MIT and a specialist on labor markets, to take a look at the substance, he pronounced it a classic case of “what Larry Summers would call ‘now-more-than-everism.’” “Here’s how it works,” Autor wrote in am e-mail. “1. You have a set of policies that you favor at all times and under all circumstances, e.g., cut taxes, remove regulations, drill-baby-drill, etc. 2. You see a problem that needs fixing (e.g., the economy stinks). 3. You say, ‘We need to enact my favored policies now more than ever.’ I believe that every item in the GOP list that you sent derives from this three step procedure....

Even if you think every item on that agenda is a grand idea, this isn’t exactly fast-acting medicine. “At best, an agenda like this is meant to improve long-term growth by a couple of tenths of a percentage point,” says Larry Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute. “It takes a really long time to move the dial. It’s not a response to a cyclical downturn.” That’s okay, because the document doesn’t believe in cyclical downturns. It only believes in deviations from the Republican agenda.... Four years ago, of course, George W. Bush was president. And he was, as you might remember, a Republican, not a Democrat. As for Wall Street, well, Wall Street who? But it’s not just that you could read this jobs plan without knowing the financial crisis ever happened. You could read it without knowing the past decade ever happened. As Mishel says, “if lower taxes and less regulation was such good policy, then George W. Bush’s economy would have been a lot better. But under Bush, Republicans cut taxes on business and on investors and high-income people and they didn’t add many regulations and that business cycle was the first one in the post-war period where the income for a typical working class family was lower at the end than at the beginning.”

That, however, is the agenda the House GOP thinks we need. And now more than ever.

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