Weekend Reading: Diane Coyle (2012): Do Economic Crises Reflect Crises in Economics?
Weekend Reading: Elizabeth Barre: What is the Point of a Teacher?

Early Monday Smackdown: Springtime for Republican Grifters--and David Brooks of the New York Times Is in on the Con

Paul Krugman: Springtime for Grifters: "At one point during Wednesday’s Republican debate...

...Ben Carson was asked about his involvement with Mannatech, a nutritional supplements company that makes outlandish claims about its products and has been forced to pay $7 million to settle a deceptive-practices lawsuit. The audience booed, and Mr. Carson denied being involved.... Carson lied. He has indeed been deeply involved with Mannatech, and has done a lot to help promote its merchandise. PolitiFact quickly rated his claim false, without qualification. But the Republican base doesn’t want to hear about it, and the candidate apparently believes, probably correctly, that he can simply brazen it out. These days, in his party, being an obvious grifter isn’t a liability, and may even be an asset....

Insider politicians like Marco Rubio are simply engaged in a different, classier kind of scam — and they are empowered in part by the way the grifters have defined respectability down.... Start with the lowest level, in which marketers use political affinity to sell get-rich-quick schemes, miracle cures, and suchlike. That’s... Carson.... It’s... long tradition.... Rick Perlstei[:]... a ‘strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers’ goes back half a century. Direct-mail marketing using addresses culled from political campaigns has given way to email, but the game remains the same.

At a somewhat higher level are marketing campaigns more or less tied to what purports to be policy analysis... warnings of imminent hyperinflation, coupled with demands that we return to the gold standard... media figures like Glenn Beck... used his show to promote Goldline, a firm selling gold coins and bars at, um, inflated prices... a vocal backer of Ted Cruz, who has made a return to gold one of his signature policy positions.... Ron Paul... spent decades warning of runaway inflation... undaunted by its failure to materialize is... in the business of selling books and videos showing how you, too, can protect yourself from the coming financial disaster.... Political action committees raising money in the name of anti-establishment conservative causes... the money these PACs raise ends up going to cover administrative costs and consultants’ fees... only 14 percent of what the Tea Party Leadership Fund spends is ‘candidate focused.’

You might think that such revelations would be politically devastating. But the targets of such schemes know, just know, that the liberal mainstream media can’t be trusted.... It’s a closed information loop, and can’t be broken....

There was a time when Mr. Rubio’s insistence that $6 trillion in tax cuts would somehow pay for themselves would have marked him as deeply unserious, especially given the way his party has been harping on the evils of budget deficits.... But the Republican base doesn’t care.... After Wednesday’s debate the Internet was full of claims that John Harwood, one of the moderators, lied about Mr. Rubio’s tax plan. (He didn’t.) And in any case, Mr. Rubio sounds sensible compared to the likes of Mr. Carson and Mr. Trump. So there’s no penalty for his fiscal fantasies. The point is that we shouldn’t ask whether the G.O.P. will eventually nominate someone in the habit of saying things that are demonstrably untrue, and counting on political loyalists not to notice. The only question is what kind of scam it will be.

And, indeed, David Brooks is already prepareing the way:

David Brooks: The Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio Moment: "Rubio has emphasized that new structural problems threaten the American dream...

...technology displacing workers, globalization suppressing wages and the decline of marriage widening inequality. His proposals reflect this awareness. At this stage it’s probably not sensible to get too worked up about the details of any candidate’s plans. They are all wildly unaffordable. What matters is how a candidate signals priorities. Rubio talks specifically about targeting policies to boost middle- and lower-middle-class living standards....

Rubio’s tax policy starts where all Republican plans start... simplify the tax code, reduce rates and move us toward a consumption-based system.... But he understands that overall growth no longer translates directly to better wages. He adds a big $2,500 child tax credit that is controversial among conservative economists, but that would make life easier for working families.... Rubio would reform the earned-income tax credit and extend it to cover childless workers...

Except not. The key issue with whether such tax credits do anything is whether they are refundable or not. If they are not, they don't do a dime's worth of good for any working family making less than (roughly) $40,000/year. And Rubio's staff say his tax credits are not refundable:

Dylan Matthews: Marco Rubio and John Harwood's Testy Debate Exchange on Taxes, Explained: "The Tax Foundation... concluded that the poor benefit from Rubio's plan...

...by assuming that Rubio will create a massive new welfare program.... [But] Rubio will not, in fact, create a massive new welfare program.... An earlier version of the proposal introduced by Rubio's collaborator Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) did get a thorough analysis from the Tax Policy Center... [which] found... the bottom quintile would get the smallest benefit... a 0.5 percent boost in after-tax income. The top 0.1 percent, by contrast, would see a 3.8 percent boost. And Lee's version was, if anything, more progressive than the new Rubio-Lee plan.... If you analyze Rubio's plan by assuming that it includes a massive welfare program that it does not, in fact, include, then it turns out to look very good for the poor!

Paul Krugman's assessment:

Paul Krugman: [Policy and Character](http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/10/30/policy-and-character/?module=BlogPost-Title&version=Blog Main&contentCollection=Opinion&action=Click&pgtype=Blogs&region=Body): "David Brooks writes a pro-Marco-Rubio column...

...It’s probably not sensible to get too worked up about the details of any candidate’s plans. They are all wildly unaffordable. What matters is how a candidate signals priorities...

It won’t surprise you to learn that I disagree deeply.... The best way to figure out a candidate’s true priorities... is to look hard at policy proposals.... George W. Bush... in 2000... the universal view of the commentariat was that W was a moderate, amiable, bluff and honest guy. I was pretty much alone taking his economic proposals... seriously. And what I saw was a level of dishonesty and irresponsibility, plus radicalism, that was unprecedented in a major-party presidential candidate. So I was out there warning that Bush was a bad, dangerous guy no matter how amiable he seemed. How did that work out?

So now we have candidates proposing ‘wildly unaffordable’ tax cuts. Can we start by noting that this isn’t a bipartisan phenomenon, that it’s not true that everyone does it?... Proposing wildly unaffordable stuff is itself a declaration of priorities: Rubio is saying that keeping the Hair Club for Growth happy is more important to him than even a pretense of fiscal responsibility.... Allegiance to voodoo trumps all....

It’s a really bad mistake to wave away policy silliness with a boys-will-be-boys attitude. Policy proposals tell us a lot about character--and the history of the past 15 years says that journalists who imagine that they can judge character from the way people come across on TV or in personal interviews are kidding themselves, and misleading everyone else.


Well Worth Reading...

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