For quite a few years not so long ago I was regularly posting here variations on “Today is Monday, so on the WaPo editorial page Robert J. (not related to Paul A.)* Samuelson is calling yet again for Social Security benefits to be cut,” and he did indeed do that very frequently over a long time. However, today was his final column for the Washington Post, so we shall no longer have RJS to kick around, sob! It was titled, “Goodbye, readers, and good luck – you’ll need it.” There is also a letter to the editor from former publisher, Donald Graham, praising RJS and reminiscing knowing him as a freshman in 1962 at Harvard. Graham noted RJS eschewed a nominal non-partisan position and studied and thought hard about his columns, even as Graham himself disagrees with some of RJS’s long-held positions, noting in particular RJS’s longstanding support for privatizing Amtrak. He also noted, as RJS himself stated in this final column, he is not an economist; he has merely reported on economics for a long time, starting at the Post in 1969 and columnizing on economics since as far back as 1977 in various venues.
I also disagree with RJS on privatizing Amtrak, although this is not a topic he has written much in recent years, although he did mention it in this final column. I would argue that he has ignored that governments fund highways, which gives vehicles a competitive edge on trains, which governments do not provide or support. So I certainly see a case for government aid to railroads, with Amtrak certainly one of the more heavily used lines in the nation.
I should note what RJS spent most of his last column writing about. He argues the biggest story of his career has been “the rise and fall of macroeconomics.” But then he turned to economists. Much of it is on the money. He says some nice things about us in general: “With some exceptions most are intelligent, informed, engaged and decent.” But then we have been wrong about a lot of things, such as deciding at various points that recessions will never happen again, although RJS admits that he did not recognize the housing bubble or foresee the Great Recession (some of us here or associated with us here did, but RJS largely ignored us). He also accurately notes that many economists take stronger positions than they might otherwise out of a desire for power and position in this or that administration, and also claim to have more influence on the economy than we do. And then he notes the unwillingness of most to change their minds after a certain point, something he himself exhibited on some of his more strongly held views.