Wednesday, August 08, 2012

A quick follow-up on the alleged Romney economic plan (Ezra Klein)

A P.S. to my post from earlier today: Romney's economic advisers try to pretend that there is a credible "Romney Program for Economic Recovery, Growth, and Jobs" ... and Brad DeLong patiently explains why their arguments range from unconvincing to misleading to inaccurate to flatly dishonest.

Ezra Klein read the statement issued by Romney's economic advisers, noted the economic research they cited in support of their arguments, and contacted some of the economists who did those cited studies. Here's what he found:
On Tuesday, the Romney campaign responded to the fire it’s taking from economic analysts by unleashing some artillery of their own. They released a paper by four decorated economists associated with the campaign — Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw, John Taylor, and Kevin Hassett — that tried to lend some empirical backing to “The Romney Program for Economic Recovery, Growth, and Jobs.”

Hubbard, Mankiw, Taylor and Hassett make three main points: The first is that this recovery has been terribly slow, even by the standards of post-financial crisis recoveries. The second is that the Obama administration made a grievous error by relying on stimulus. And the third is that Romney’s tax and economic plans would usher in an era of rapid growth that would both be good for the country and provide the boost to revenues and employment necessary to make their numbers work out.

Each of these sections include supporting documents from independent economists. And so I contacted some of the named economists to ask what they thought of the Romney campaign’s interpretation of their research. In every case, they responded with a polite version of Marshall McLuhan’s famous riposte [from "Annie Hall]. The Romney campaign, they said, knows little of their work. Or of their policy proposals. [...]
And that's just for starters.  They also said that in so far as Romney & his team have actually proposed substantive policies to address the problems they think are important, those proposals are at best incoherent and/or unconvincing.

Rather than reproducing the main substance of Ezra Klein's piece, let me advise you to read it here.  It's hard to disagree with his conclusion::
So even the studies that the Romney campaign’s economists handpicked to bolster their case don’t prove what the Romney campaign says they prove. And some of the key policy recommendations that flow from those studies are anathema to the Romney campaign. And in perhaps the key policy area highlighted by these studies, the Romney campaign doesn’t have a formal policy. If this is the best they can do in support of their economic plan, well, it’s not likely to quiet the critics.
It's also worth reflecting that three of the four the authors of this pro-Romney manifesto are high-profile economists at prestigious universities.  (The fourth, Hassett, is high-profile only in the sense that in 1999 he co-authored the notoriously laughable book Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting from the Coming Rise in the Stock Market.)  If even they can't do better than that, one has to wonder whether there's really any plan there that can be seriously defended.

—Jeff Weintraub