Monday, June 07, 2010

Digby Says Obama is following the teachings of Herbert Hoover.

Update: Score a big one for Digby. Obama is demanding agencies identify 5% of their spending which can be cut. There is no hint that cuts will be proposed only after we are out of the liquidity trap.

The Washington Post accepts Hoover as our guide and teacher. Lori Montgomery doesn't describe any economic rationale for the cuts and asserts, no doubt correctly, that the motivation is purely partisan politics. Also she quotes only administration sources, Republicans and pro-pain advocacy groups. The Hooverite advocates praise the Hooverite proposal. No sane commentators were consulted.

The only way to reconcile Obama's new approach with economic sanity is to assume that he believes that we will be out of the liquidity trap by the time the cuts are identified and implemented. The unemployment rate will certainly still be high when the cuts (if any) are actually implemented, but the effect of government spending on GDP depends on monetary policy. The zero nominal interest rate bound is binding only so long as the Fed wants monetary policy to be as expansionary as possible, and sanity in the White House would not cause Sanity on the FOMC. However, it is obvious that politics and neo-Hooverian ideology are causing the proposal.

end update.

Update II (last thing I will ever write on Digby vs the facts ever).

I apologise the the patient reader, if there is one, and promise that I won't write about Digby again. Ever. Just above, I conceded that the latest news from the Obama administration very much supported her view that they are Hoovering. Then I made a mistake. I read another post by Digby (good move I read all of them) and I decided to note, just for the record, that when she discusses US taxes and spending she is completely out of touch with reality.

Today she wrote "the government is having no problem telling people all over the country that they are just going to have to punt because we can't afford to pay them unemployment benefits."

Google news (obviously not a resourse which interests Digby) sent me here

Unemployment Extension Bill Set To Go Before Senate Today
By Audrey Howard on June 8, 2010, 5:26 am

On Monday the Senate Finance Chairman, Max Baucus, said that the committee had almost finished putting the final touches on HB 4213. Along with the much needed unemployment benefits extension that is on the bill there is also measures to stop pay cuts in the Medicare system, extend tax breaks that are needed to create jobs, and provide funding necessary to carry on with a summer jobs program

That was literally 5 seconds of googling. I searched news for "jobs" "bill" "2010" "june" and got proof that Digby's claim of fact is false on the very first try.

OK so the news is dated June 8 like Digby's post. However, it is news that a bill is moving to the Senate floor. The House has already passed a similar bill. The accurate statement is that the Government is having problems getting checks to the long term unemployed on time. The claims that the government has no problem cutting them off and that it is cutting them off because of a perceived lack of money and not the drunken slug maximum pace of Senate action are plainly false.

Digby's statements on simple matters of fact are often plainly false. She discusses government spending but ignores bills in Congress.

I think she has a lot to contribute to the national debate. However, I think it is clear that Dibgy's claims of fact are not reliable. Embarrassingly, in spite of reading her posts daily, I don't know if she has a narrow disinterest in Federal Government spending or a more general indifference to facts. I don't care. I classify her as "all claims of fact must be checked." Once I know that someone repeatedly makes false claims of fact, I will not seek limits to that persons unreliability. Unreliable is unreliable.

I suggest to my readers (if any) that they never trust any claim of fact made by Digby. Her ideas are interesting. Her "facts" are not all facts.

Sorry for wasting your time. I promise that the word "Digby" will not appear on this blog again.

end update II

Is noting that someone overlooked over $ 126 billion being picky picky picky ?

Does noting this fact imply that Obama is to the left of Digby ?

Digby, Bruce Wilder and an anonymous commenter are not interested in a fact and my noting that fact. They don't seem to have been interested in mere facts when posting and commenting recently. Wilder and anonymous do not recognise claims of fact when they see them. They assume that if I make of claim of fact, I must be arguing for the conclusion (which comes to their head) supported by that claim of fact. The commenters clearly assume that I am indifferent to mere facticity and only note facts because I find them convenient. There is no other explanation for their inference. I know there are people indifferent the difference between fact and falsehood. I am not one of them. I assume that, in spite of their comments, Bruce Wilder and anonymous aren't either.

Digby wrote "But aside from the inadequate stimulus, everything they have said up to now is in service of the hoary old Hooverite ideas about belt tightening and sacrifice"

Not only does Digby consider the ARRA a statement not an action (obviously she is unwilling to be distracted from words by mere actions for long) but she also asserted that there was one and only one stimulus. The topic of the post was international reluctance to enact more fiscal stimulus. In this context "the stimulus" can't refer to all of the five or more stimulus bills signed by Obama. I think that Digby asserted that they don't exist. She is not interested in the facts. She isn't interested in actual Federal spending. She is so focused on language and debate and tone that she doesn't bother keeping track of events.

The stimulus bills signed by Obama include

ARRA (the one even Digby noticed).

Cash for Clunkers signed June 25 2009

Tax breaks for homebuyers (dumb but a stimulus not austerity)

The HIRE act signed 18 March 2010.

Piddling but not zero. $17.5 billion If I read correctly.

HR4213. This is the significant additional stimulus bill (it was not tiny like the HIRE act) with over 102 billion more spending in fiscal 2010 and 2011 plus tax cuts of over 26 billion.

To Digby over 128 billion dollars are nothing.

There are other bills which are not exactly stimulus spending but Hooverian belt tightening either. They include the Health Care Reform bill which Digby doesn't bother to mention. Most of it is delayed until 2004, but not quite all of it.


Veterans benefits increased Oct 22 2009

Note, yet another stimulus bill supported by Obama was passed by the House with huge cuts compared to a proposal and not yet taken up by the Senate.

As far as I know the house cuts were not supported by the Obama administration.
I note that Atrios has a clear idea who to blame
"Congress is encouraging 50 little Hoovers. It's going to work out so well."

Two commenters irritated me. One is anonymous. He or she wrote
"You owe Digby an apology." However, he or she equates the assertion that more stimulus is needed and not much more stimulus seems likely with the assertion that there has been only one stimulus bill. In support of his or her claim that I owe Digby an apology, anonymous presents proof that Digby's claim was false, just as I asserted. Anonymous quoted Brad Delong including
"We have an administration experiencing difficulty finding $23 billion to prevent additional teacher layoffs," The fact that the administration is attempting to find that money shows that its policy is not pure Hooverite belt tightening.

Anonymous is so incapable of understanding the concept of a fact that he or she thinks that this assertion, which proves that Digby's claim was false (the Obama administration proposed a bill to Congress and that is undoubtably a form of communication). To anonymous, the only thing that matters is what side you are on and you can't admit that Obama has signed more than one stimulus if you don't agree with the deficit commission on everything. This is teapartier level idiocy.

Facts are facts. A claim of fact is not contradicted by a claim of fact which proves that it is true. I can be appalled by Digby's indifference to the facts while agreeing with her on the general outlines of proper policy.

Bruce Wilder wrote "Of course, digby is more concerned about words -- words are what she does. Hers is a cultural and rhetorical critique. She tries to take economics seriously, but defers to others on that, as she should."

Look I am not demanding that she have a view on say economic theory. I am demanding that she not overlook over 128 billion dollars in stimulus spending and tax cuts due to a bill signed into law this Spring. I guess if it has to do with dollars it has something to do with economics, but if you are not at all interested in government taxing or spending, you shouldn't write about fiscal policy. I don't expect her to be an economist (or want it there are too many economists already). I do expect her to keep track of over a hundred billion dollars which was in the news in March. Writing about fiscal policy while ignoring actual fiscal policy does not seem to me to be a good idea.

Then Wilder wrote "There's nothing wrong with her appraisal of the politics of Obama's economics. Your attempt to portray it as factually or reality-challenged falls flat."

Now saying that a claim of fact "falls flat" is not a reality based response. I asserted that Digby made a false claim about stimulus bills enacted less than three months ago.

Then Wilder wrote "If Brad DeLong finds Obama drifting to his right, digby is certainly correct to see Obama to her right."

I did not in any way write suggest or ever think that Obama is not to the right of Digby. I claimed that, in her critique of Obama, Digby ignored the facts. There is no basis whatsoever for Wilder's apparent belief that I asserted that Obama is not to the right of Digby. I never said that and he insults me by suggesting I did. I think Wilder owes me an apology for criticizing a claim which I absolutely did not make.

Claims which are contradicted by facts in the public record are not OK even if one is part of the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.

My post was long, incoherent, rude, and angry. I was actually more appalled to Digby's unwillingness to think about the world outside of the USA, than by her plainly false claim about Obama and stimulus spending. I definitely did not say anything in any way contradicted by evidence presented by the commenters.


Anonymous said...

Well, let's try again. You claim "We have an administration experiencing difficulty finding $23 billion to prevent additional teacher layoffs," means "the administration is attempting to find that money."

Politico says, however, "Mixed signals from the White House are making life harder for Democrats this week as the party tries to navigate between competing demands to reduce the deficit while also investing in new jobs and a patched-up safety net for the unemployed and the elderly.

...the administration appears internally conflicted and has adopted the practice of urging lawmakers to add new spending for its priorities without having President Barack Obama sign a real request.

A $23 billion emergency proposal to forestall threatened layoffs of public school teachers is now a likely casualty of this approach. In a letter to Democratic leaders May 13, Education Secretary Arne Duncan endorsed the funding, urging Congress to add the money to a pending war funding bill in the Senate. But the White House never forwarded a budget request and was conspicuously silent on the whole teachers funding issue when it issued its endorsement of the underlying $58.8 billion bill this week."

I'd say they're not trying very hard, or hard enough, to find the money.

So if Digby would have written "But aside from the inadequate stimulus, too much of what they have said up to now is in service of the hoary old Hooverite ideas about belt tightening and sacrifice" she would have been right. And its harming efforts to right the economy, as Krugman and DeLong both note.

Sorry, but the difference between that and what she said doesn't merit the tone and content of your posts. That is, unless you're just trying to bolster your "seriousness" street cred by punching some hippies.

Robert said...

It is clear that we agree on two key issues. You agree that Dibgy's false statement was false. In my original post, I wrote that I was ranting, so I agreed the tone was unreasonable in the very post.

However, we disagree about tone and factual accuracy. A sane tone is helpful. However, a spittle flecked assertion that a false claim is false should be accepted.

Also you note that, with regard to the latest stimulus bill, the Obama administration is not supporting increased spending with sufficient vigor. This is completely different from supporting budget slashing with great vigor as are the UK and Germany governments (as well as those of countries which have authentic problems selling their bonds at low yields).

If you are down in comments, you will have seen the update to the post.