That Nice Mrs. Romer Is . . . Dangerous

Econophile's picture

From The Daily Capitalist

As my readers know, every so often I really get fed up with what comes out of Washington (Our Nation's Capital) and feel the need to vent. My recent irritation is a letter Christina Romer, the president of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, published in the Wall Street Journal.

The letter is an apologia for the economic policies she and Summers and Geithner have been recommending to the president. She seems like such a nice lady, and she's the wife of economist David Romer. Both were econ professors at Berkeley and both studied economics at MIT. But ...

Here are some excerpts from her letter, with my comments:

Within a month of taking office, the administration had announced its Financial Stability Plan and signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Recovery Act helped stem the decline in spending caused by consumers and businesses reeling from the fall in asset prices and the drying up of credit. Real GDP, which had fallen at a 6.4% annual rate in the first quarter of 2009, began to grow again just two quarters later. ...

She seriously believes this. But she has a slight problem with the cause and effect, post hoc ergo propter hoc*, thingie. That is, there is no evidence, theoretical or empirical, that the Recovery Act did anything positive or lasting. Even assuming Keynesian stimulus works, the government hadn't spent enough money to make it work according to the Keynesian formula. At least that's what Paul Krugman said. Whatever, no one has ever offered any proof that such stimulus works.

And, as far as I know, PCE (consumer spending) is still very low, asset prices are still declining, and credit is worse.

We've already seen from the Recovery Act that spending on infrastructure—everything from roads and bridges to schools and municipal buildings—is an effective way to put people back to work while creating lasting investments that raise future productivity. ...

Yadda, yadda, yadda. Again more spending on things the government wants, not the things that the market wants. The jobs are already fizzling. See this excellent article in the WSJ, ironically published on the same day as Mrs. Romer's piece. The gist is that when the government money ends, the jobs dry up.

Subsequently the president pushed for the Cash for Clunkers program that was successful in boosting demand and job creation. ...

All this did was to junk a bunch of good cars, fill the pockets of auto dealers, and appease the UAW. Auto sales are already declining again. It just accelerated future sales of people who would have bought cars anyway.

[A]bout a month ago the president announced the latest in a series of measures to encourage banks to lend to small businesses. ...

As we all know credit is still shrinking, not growing. They have tried every trick in the Keynesian book to loosen credit but to no avail. I'm sure this new legislation will be different.

[I]n early November the president signed into law a measure that would provide relief and spur job creation by adding additional weeks of unemployment insurance, cutting taxes for businesses, and expanding and extending the home-buyer tax credit. ...

That must have worked really fast, because unemployment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dropped from 10.2% to 10% in November. Wow, that's great legislation. But, as we all know, Things Are Not What They Seem. As David Rosenberg pointed out in one of his reports, the government stats look funny because they are so different from what ADP reported. 

Despite these positive developments, the job market remains very weak. ... American businesses appear hesitant to hire, and are producing more with fewer workers. ...

Didn't she just say that things are getting better?

Tomorrow [the President] will convene a meeting of business and labor leaders, small-business owners, economists and community representatives to discuss our ideas and solicit others for accelerating hiring. ... [W]e need to harness the private sector, bringing large and small firms in off the sidelines to boost job creation. ...

This is the part that really upset me. First, this is a typical political move. "Let's all get together and come up with some great ideas!" No offense to the community organizers out there, but getting a bunch of people in a room like this gets nowhere. The best thing they could do is cancel all meetings, and get the hell out of the way.

But what really got me was the "harness the private sector" comment. I hope she didn't mean it in the way I'm thinking, but if she didn't then it's even worse because she doesn't realize the implications of her policies. When government gets together with business and labor to create policies for political benefit, it is called fascism, or national socialism. The words she used were rather telling: a "harness" is not something I would want to be in. You know who has the whip.

While the words seem innocent, it is all about losing our freedoms. Here's the conclusion from a piece I wrote about the takeover of GM (in homage to Ayn Rand):

Sometimes it’s hard to see what is happening in front of your eyes. It seems rather benign and logical when you read about it, but it’s not. Nationalizing GM is just good old fashioned fascism–just like what happened in Italy in the 1920s and ‘30s ... And now us. If you think I’m exaggerating, it’s probably because you think everything the government does is OK because we’re having a crisis. As Wesley Mouch said in Atlas Shrugged, “We’ve got to act!” That’s how we are losing our freedom, by a thousand cuts.


*Since that event followed this one, that event must have been caused by this one.