The Economic Report of the President is authored by the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), currently chaired by noted economist Glenn Hubbard. Noam Scheiber gives essential background analysis of both the politicization of the CEA, and Hubbard drifting from analyst to advocate. See Bush’s war on honest economics. Scheiber may slightly overstate the historical lack of bias on behalf of the CEA economists, but he makes a strong case that the level of bias (whether it previously was zero or small and positive) is now at an all time high.

“Hubbard seems to have responded to [assistant to the president for economic policy Lawrence] Lindsey’s influence not by digging in his heels, like many of his predecessors, but by making CEA more political itself.”

More generally, as I read chapter 5, I’m struck by the number of passive phrasings such as “it has been estimated…”, “research has shown that…”, “some have argued…”. This is generally considered (sic) to be a weak way of couching an argument. Scratch that. This is a weak way to couch an argument. What research? Who has argued? Who estimated and how? Without active statements of the theory in question and how it was tested, these statements are not falsifiable, nor can they be replicated by other researchers, and thus are barely more than opinions and speculation.

Here’s a nice excerpt from a randomly googled site on usage of the passive voice:


The agent (the original subject) is often left out of a passive verb phrase. Do not use passives just to hide the fact that you do not know the source of something. Sentences which begin like these should be avoided:

It is widely known that …

It has been claimed that ..

It is universally acknowledged that …

It cannot be denied that …

A critical reader will immediately want to know “who knows?”, “who has claimed?”, “who acknowledges?”, or will say “Oh yes, I can deny it ..”

But what about the substance of the chapter?

Stay tuned.

AB

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