Jonathan Chait Soft on Reihan Salam and Soft on the Causes of Reihan Salam*
In fact, Jonathan Chait lied to defend Salan. He misquoted Salam in order to make Salam seem more reasonable that he is.
Chait wrote "Reihan Salam at National Review objects that Leonhardt is refuting a notion that no serious person actually holds:"
That claim is a lie. Salam didn't say that Leonhardt is refuting a notion that no serious person actually holds. Salan said that Leonhardt is refuting a claim that no person actually holds.
Chait himself presents proof that he, Chait, is a flat out liar, quoting something the Salam actually wrote.
"I don't thing that anyone doubts that ARRA helped perk up growth."
Note "anyone" not "any serious person."
I fear that Salam may have written that honestly -- that is that he is completely ignorant or insane.
OK less than 5 minutes of research later I find
CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. Jan. 8-10, 2010. N=1,021 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.
"Now here are some other questions about that bill, which is officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, although many people refer to it as the economic stimulus package. Which of the following statements comes closest to your view of the effect that bill has had on economic conditions around the country? It has improved economic conditions. Economic conditions have not improved, but it prevented conditions from becoming even worse. It had no effect on economic conditions. It has made economic conditions worse."
Improved Conditions 12%
Becoming Even Worse 49%
Had No Effect 22%
Made Conditions Worse 19%
I'd say that means 61% accept the perk up view and 41% absolutely reject it.
That's 418 unpersons right there. Assuming the sample was OK, Salam's guess of 0 appears to be off by roughly 100 million.
I think we learn 3 things. One is that Salam is an extreme elitist. Basically most people count zero to him. When he says about what "people agree" , he means "people like us agree."
Second he is very sloppy.
Third, in their desperate search for non-insane conservatives, liberal thinkers are willing to ignore the facts.
Note Matthew Yglesias links to Chait and shows this reveals something about "the smarter set of conservative commentators."
And Kevin Drum writes "Reihan is implicitly suggesting that liberals ought to be engaging with the best of conservative thinkers"
A little problem like saying 100 million = 0 is perfectly consistent with being accepted among "the smarter set of conservative commentators" and "the best of conservative thinkers".
Now I personally know conservatives who are smart and who are not insane. Why are they hiding ?
update: Welcome Kevin Drummers. My ferocious criticism of Chait was a joke. Also, I will note a possible defence of Salam. He might argue that people can believe that ARRA perked up growth, but that it did not improve economic conditions.
This would not make sense if one uses the phrase "economic conditions" as it is used by economists and journalist who write about the economy. We mean things like GNP growth, unemployment and maybe inflation. As we use the phrase economic conditions do not include the national debt. That is something which will affect future economic conditions but it is not currently an economic condition.
Thus usage is not the only possible usage -- the words "economic" and "conditions" do not belong to economists or economic journalists.
It is possible that poll respondants thought that the ARRA perked up growth but that this perking was outweighed by the added debt. Given the standard journalistic usage of "economic conditions" they should not answer that it made economic conditions worse. However, that is not necessarily given.
I'm fairly confident that a similar fraction of people would say that the ARRA caused lower GNP in the 4th quarter as said that it worsened economic conditions. However, I don't have proof.
Of course this is always true. Only if someone were to quote the question asked in a poll and then said no one gave the answer that some people gave would there be rock solid proof that they were wrong.
*improved title credited to Brad DeLong