The Real Problem With Economic Policy

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From today’s LA Times:

As he confronts the threat of another recession and turmoil in the financial markets, President Obama is being advised by an economic team that is noticeably short on big-name players — potentially hurting his ability to find solutions and sell them to Wall Street, Congress and the American public.

“When you ask about the economic team, it’s kind of like, ‘What economic team?'” said Edward Mills, a financial policy analyst with FBR Capital Markets. “They are very thin at a very critical time.”….Some analysts worry that the White House might not have enough economic expertise to fashion new proposals for boosting growth.

I get that daily newspapers need to have something new to say each day. Ditto for cable news. And blogs too! But can we please ditch the pretense here? Sure, Obama has lost most of his economic team and hasn’t replaced them all. That’s a legitimate story. But does anyone seriously think that this is having any effect at all on his ability to “find solutions and sell them to Wall Street, Congress, and the American public”?

Come on. Obama’s current team is probably more in tune with Wall Street than the old one, and the American public responds to comforting narratives, not the quality of the economic analysis behind them. (When they respond at all, that is.) But none of that matters anyway. Obama’s problem isn’t a lack of bright ideas, it’s the fact that the Republican-controlled House has no interest in acting on proposals to spur job growth or stimulate the economy. If it doesn’t cut taxes on the rich or slash pesky regulations on big corporations, they’re not going to give it the time of day. This is not exactly a big secret in Washington.

Barack Obama could have the reincarnated ghosts of Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes running his economic policy shop and it probably wouldn’t make any difference. Republicans are bound and determined to do nothing to seriously address our faltering economy, and that’s that. This is what’s standing in the way of getting anything done, and pretending otherwise is a disservice to the news-consuming public.

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