My Naivete

I hoped Christy Romer would be a voice of reason within Obama’s economic team. What was I thinking? If yesterday’s WSJ op-ed is any indication, her role has been reduced to that of cheerleader for the President’s preposterous “stimulus” program. The editorial is a string of banalities, unsupported by argument or evidence, about the wonderful effects of stimulus and the need to “confront the challenges” that remain. For example, noting that real GDP increased slightly in the third quarter of 2009, after a sharp fall in the first quarter, she says that the “vast majority of professional forecasters attribute much of this dramatic turnaround to the fiscal stimulus.” Professional forecasters? Of course, we have no idea what GDP would have been in the absence of stimulus. And what of the secondary consequences, both short- and long-term? What of the unseen? She even praises the cash-for-clunkers program, recently skewered by my old friend John Chapman.

She knows all this. As Christy’s teaching assistant at Berkeley I saw her explain, patiently and carefully, how government programs have side effects, often unintended (she specifically used the airplane-child-safety-seat example of the Peltzman effect). All forgotten now. Some version of Lord Acton’s dictum, I guess.

[Cross-posted at Organizations and Markets]

Peter G. Klein is a Research Fellow, Associate Editor of The Independent Review, and Member of the Board of Advisors of the Center on Culture and Civil Society at the Independent Institute.
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