The conceit of "Crafting a Boom Economy," a new story by Politico editor Jim VandeHei and chief political correspondent Mike Allen, is that a bipartisan consensus exists in Washington, D.C., on how to reinvigorate the economy, but elected officials are constrained by political polarization from admitting the truth. In interviews with "top lawmakers, officials, their senior aides, and the CEOs who advise and lobby all of them," VandeHei and Allen have gleaned a foolproof, five-point plan for strong economic growth:
The current tax-and-spending debate only flirts with what these insiders say needs to be done. Instead, top White House and congressional leaders talk privately of the need for tax reform that goes way beyond individuals and rates; much deeper Social Security and Medicare changes than currently envisioned; quick movement on trade agreements, including a proposed one with Europe; an energy policy that exploits the oil and gas boom; and allowing foreign-born students with science expertise to stay here and start businesses.
Do this and there could be not an economic recovery — but a boom, many argue.
It's as simple as that, according to the luminaries quoted in the story, including Bill Clinton's former chief of staff Erskine Bowles, Warren Buffett, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and a lot of financiers: Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Of course, the limited scope of that source pool, as well as the Moses-like handing-down of infallible truths, has drawn guffaws from certain quarters of the web. Here are four samples:
"Politico accidentally exposes Beltway elite" by Jonathan Chait at New York:
This is far from the Randian paranoia that has spread among so many millionaires in the Obama agenda. Indeed, I find most of it fairly sensible as policy. What makes the consensus so astonishing, and even nauseating, is the degree to which those who share it show no awareness of their own insularity. Their shared sense of a smart economic growth strategy excludes any monetary or fiscal plan to bring down unemployment through higher consumer demand, a position that commands strong support among economists. Their list of ailments also excludes skyrocketing income inequality and out-of-control carbon emissions. (Though, at the end of a passage extolling the glorious possibility that American oil production will exceed that of Saudi Arabia within a decade, VandeHei and Allen do note, "No doubt, there are environmental concerns, especially for drinking water." Well, yes. Also for the future of the human race.)
"Delusions of wisdom" by Paul Krugman at The New York Times:
There are some remarkable economic assertions in here. That great economist Jeb Bush — yes, Jeb Bush — is quoted as declaring that ending structural deficits would boost the growth rate hugely; this would come as news to any economist I know. And, um, aren't our structural deficits largely the result of his brother's policies?
Or take the blithe assertion that trade liberalization and tax reform would do wonders for growth. Again, the answers from people who have actually tried to address these issues seriously and put numbers to them are no and no.
"Politico's hilarious article on what it will take to make the economy 'boom'" by Joseph Weisenthal at Business Insider:
Really, where on earth are the bold ideas here that can only be discussed in private? Tax reform, entitlement cuts, oil & gas spending, and more high-skilled immigration are the most publicly talked about ideas from CEOs, Squawk-Box guests, and Simpson & Bowles-types. They're always presented as being "bipartisan."
There are actually some ideas that could help the economy that don't get talked about. Bailing out underwater homeowners is an idea that a lot of economists favor, but which Obama won't touch. Actually, pretty much all stimulus is considered "unserious" if proposed. But we don't get any of that here. Just cliche ideas repackaged as apolitical wisdom.
"Things in Politico that make me want to guzzle antifreeze, point of no return edition" by Charles P. Pierce at Esquire:
Of course, it's your "clear takeaway," you twits. You might as well troll meth labs to learn table manners. Ask dogs for recreational tips and they'll tell you to lick your balls. Ask monkeys about hobbies, and they'll teach you to fling poo. Ask the plutocrats, and the politicians who serve them, and the aides who serve them about what we should do about the economy, and the answer is always going to be "make sure we stay rich."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Hey, bosses: Stop giving bonuses to your employees
- Why the Sony hack changes everything
- Alien conspiracy theorists think the government is on the verge of spilling big secrets
- Why torture doesn't work: A definitive guide
Subscribe to the Week