Gasoline Tax: Robert Menendez Must Not Read This Blog

David Kurtz catches this remark from Senator Menendez:

Thank God that we don’t have economists making necessarily public policy

Wow – Menendez must love how the Bush White House makes public policy! But then let’s check out his clarification:

the point I was making was that the everyday pains that average Americans are feeling aren’t always taken into account by an economist sitting behind a desk looking at numbers.

I’m sorry but this is a really stupid statement. We at the blog like most economists do take into account the impact of higher prices on individual households. Maybe some conservatives think we spend too much time on distributional effects but to say we just look at the aggregate numbers is one of the dumbest things I’ve heard in a long time.

Update: Courtesy of AB reader Brooks, the comments by Greg Mankiw are a must read. Greg is arguing that when Paul Krugman says this gas tax holiday is small potatoes, the following must be also said:

Paul is right that the issue is, quantitatively, small potatoes, but I am nonetheless pleased to see it get so much attention. This issue is like the canary in the coal mine: No one really cares about the canary, but its condition tells us about deeper problems that lie below.

Brad DeLong agrees with Greg:

it is important that presidential candidates fear economists even in the campaign. If they don’t fear their economists, then we get campaign promises of really lousy economic policy, some of which will then make it into post-election real policy, and then we are in trouble. Republican politicians have not feared their economists since… the Eisenhower administration, I think, and so Republican economic policy is overwhelmingly lousy. Democratic politicians have in the past and still today fear the bad headlines that are generated if their own economic advisers say that they are full of it. And so their campaign rhetoric is less out-to-lunch. And their post-election policies are better. For Paul to take steps to diminish Democratic politicians’ fear of economists… Well, it’s contrary to guild rules. Just saying…