Plouffe Vs Sperling, Krugman etc

As I’m sure all Angry Bear readers know, there is a debate within the Obama administration on whether to try to maybe do something about unemployment. To recap Obama has been talking about reducing the deficit which might ideally have no effect (if the reductions were far enough in the future) or which would make the problem worse. There is a debate within the administration in which political advisors strongly recommend against advocating any sort of new stimulus and economists recommend trying to do something.

There seems to be general agreement that Congress won’t approve any effective policy, so the debate is over politics. The political advisors note that the public wants a balanced budget and predict that advocating any sort of stimulus would be politically costly. The economists argue that Obama can convince the majority of the public that they have been wrong for decades (as their parents and grandparents were before them).

I am an economist and I think that the economists such as Gene Sperling are dreaming.

My contribution, such as it is, is to note how widespread is the belief that it is politically useful to advocate unpopular policies which will not be implemented so no new evidence could possibly convince the vast majority of the public that they are wrong.

In this excellent post (click the link for the more than a nickle version of what is going on) the almost always reasonable Steve Benen writes

[Obama]’s generally unwilling to invest energy in a plan that can’t pass, regardless of the ancillary political benefits.


another round of stimulus … would fail miserably in Congress and most voters strongly disapprove of the idea anyway


having the debate positions Obama as the leader with the right vision,

The more Obama can make them own the results, while positioning himself as the leader fighting the good fight, the better off he’ll be politically.

Benen confidently asserts that by advocating a policy of which most voters strongly disapprove Obama will obtain “ancillary political benefits”, and concince voters that he is “right.”

Frankly, I think that’s crazy.

The “disapprove” was an indirect quote of the political advisors, but Benen does not contest the claim of fact which is, I think, un-contestable.

You propose policy for the country you have not the country you want. Political strategy based on the assumption that the US public will recognise that they are completely confused before the next election has failed again and again.

When was the last time it worked ?

Commenters who say I am wrong and do not provide such an example will be mocked in reply comments.

update: formatting corrected.