Former Obama Budget Chief: Forget Democracy. How About Rule By Technocrats and Independent Commissions?

Former Office of Management and Budget chief Peter Orszag has had it up to here with democracy:

To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.

What's the big problem with democracy? Well, for starters, not enough deficit spending. Yes, really. Orszag complains that it's hard to just run up the federal credit card tab as high as he wants to, even though "virtually all responsible economists agree" that America, despite running record-setting deficits in recent years, needs bigger deficits in the short term. 

Virtually all responsible economists agree that we should be aiming to reduce the deficit in the long-term but not in the short-term. We need an even larger deficit in 2011 and 2012, to support a weak economy—but a much smaller deficit in 2020 and 2050, to put the nation back on a sustainable fiscal course. Yet our polarized political system has proved incapable of reaching a consensus on this common-sense approach.

What we need, then, are ways around our politicians. The first would be to expand automatic stabilizers—those tax and spending provisions that automatically expand when the economy weakens, thereby cushioning the blow, and automatically contract as the economy recovers, thereby helping to reduce the deficit. 

That "virtually all responsible economists" label is quite convenient. Who isn't broadly in favor of following the guidance of responsible economists? But is there any doubt that Orszag, with his unflappable faith in the Bigger Deficits Now strategy, would label just about any economist who didn't favor higher short-term deficit spending as "irresponsible"? Peel away the cute anti-democracy framework, then, and Orszag has done little more than argue that America should be governed more by empowered technocrats who agree with...Peter Orszag. 

Indeed, Orszag goes on to argue that "a significant part of the response to polarization and gridlock must involve creating more independent institutions"—independent commissions and panels, presumably packed with people of Orszagian mindset. 

This isn't the first time Orszag has put his faith in the power of independent commissions. As Obama's first OMB director, he put forth a budget that he admitted didn't meet the administration's stated own deficit reduction goals without relying on the eventual recommendations of the president's fiscal commission. Orszag staked a lot on that budget plan: “Frankly I feel like my credibility is on the line in the document that we put out,” he told Bloomberg shortly before the budget's release. At the end of 2010, the commission released its recommendations. They were essentially ignored—just as Orszag's self-serving plea to turn policymaking over to more powerful technocrats should be. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Max||

    How about rule by unregulated con artists and private cops? Stick your right-wing ideology up you fat ass, Suderman.

  • ||

    right, an authoritarian administration that decides which laws it will enforce and which it won't is the fault of the author. This WH, and liberalism as a whole, relies on chaos to advance its agenda. It cannot abide people who do NOT need govt; it cannot abide people who think they should have a voice; it cannot abide people thinking that Ivy League weenies and career wonks do NOT know everything.

  • Tony||

    You don't have to believe that Ivy Leaguers know everything; what makes you a sensible person is knowing that you don't know everything either.

  • Sudden||

    The wisest man in the world believes himself a fool.

    The central point, Tony, is that NO ONE knows how to run anything, and that the world runs best when individuals make self-interested decisions with other parties in a way that is considered by both parties as mutually advantageous.

  • Tony||

    In other words, you know best.

  • prolefeed||

    No, in other words, each person knows what's best for them, or at least they know better than distant bureaucrats with perverse incentives to act in the self-interest of the bureaucrats.

  • Tony||

    But you're still advocating an overall policy and claiming it produces the best outcomes. Dogmatists don't realize they're dogmatists, they think they're "just right."

  • Ray Pew||

    But you're still advocating an overall policy and claiming it produces the best outcomes. Dogmatists don't realize they're dogmatists, they think they're "just right."

    So you don't believe that the policies you espouse are right? Or do you just not realize that you are a "dogmatist"?

  • Tony||

    I'm not the one claiming my policies by their very nature exempt me from responsibility for their consequences.

  • Fluffy||

    Claiming that no single policy can achieve good outcomes for hundreds of millions of people better than distributed decision making is not "dogmatism".

    It's its opposite.

    Next up, you will claim that aporeia is dogmatism.

    This is because you are a moronic cunt.

  • fish||

    Dogmatists don't realize they're dogmatists, they think they're "just right."

    Pot....meet kettle!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    What you said, fish. Tony and his ilk think THEIR Way is The One True Path, while they wag their fingers at others who dare tump their graven images.

  • Tony||

    ...almost forgot - and knowing you don't know what's best for yourself.

  • Ray Pew||

    ...almost forgot - and knowing you don't know what's best for yourself.

    Then by your very argument, the people we cannot trust are those who believe they know what is best for themselves and others. Correct?

  • Tony||

    You've got me there. I stand corrected.

  • Trespassers W||

    Fortunately, a bunch of people who don't know me nevertheless know what's best for me.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I'm not the one telling everyone how they should live their lives or spend their money.

  • Devil Inchoate||

    Mims explains why Solyndra is a good thing: http://www.grist.org/list/2011.....b-for-once

    Yeah, I know, who is Mims?

  • Tony||

    Sure you are. You think people should live their lives with a smaller government than they want, and spend more money on medical expenses, school, and other things that would otherwise be paid for commonly. You're every bit as much of a know-it-all who wants to snoop in everyone's business. You just think you're superior because you give yourself bonus points for your beliefs, just because.

  • Ray Pew||

    Sure you are. You think people should live their lives with a smaller government than they want, and spend more money on medical expenses, school, and other things that would otherwise be paid for commonly. You're every bit as much of a know-it-all who wants to snoop in everyone's business. You just think you're superior because you give yourself bonus points for your beliefs, just because.

    Tony, you can drive this crapper argument until the wheels fall off, but it will always be absurd. Claiming that people are FORCED against their will to be free or can't be "truly free" if they cannot compel others against their will is laughable.

  • Tony||

    I don't see why you can't force a policy of too much freedom. Maybe people don't want as much freedom as you're offering. Shouldn't they get a choice in the matter, regardless?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    The ones who claim we have "too much freedom" exist at the far wing-tips of the Teams.

    Are your ears burnin', Tony?

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Maybe people don't want as much freedom as you're offering.

    Sure they do--they, like yourself, just want others to pay for it.

  • Tony||

    Sure you are. You think people should live their lives with a smaller government than they want, and spend more money on medical expenses, school, and other things that would otherwise be paid for commonly. You're every bit as much of a know-it-all who wants to snoop in everyone's business. You just think you're superior because you give yourself bonus points for your beliefs, just because.

  • prolefeed||

    Those people are welcome to form their own voluntary form of governance, and have it be really huge, and impose assessments on everyone who has joined their association to commonly pay for goods.

    It's when they try to coerce me into joining this government via brute force backed by guns so they can take away my liberty that I get a bit pissed off.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: prolefeed,

    Those people are welcome to form their own voluntary form of governance, and have it be really huge, and impose assessments on everyone who has joined their association to commonly pay for goods.


    They already did - we call them Greeks. The Germans call them their "tenants."

  • Tony||

    That's exactly the situation we are in. People have voluntarily formed a collective society called the United States. You are in no way forced to remain a citizen of that collective, but you sure as hell aren't allowed to freeload on it.

  • fish||

    ....but you sure as hell aren't allowed to freeload on it.

    Crap! Most of those you claim to care so desperately about are freeloaders....every argument you put forth is made so they can continue this "antisocial" activity..

  • Many Welfare Recipients||

    Hey! We're not freeloaders! We're, uh... okay, we're freeloaders.

  • Tony||

    No, they pay taxes without saying it's slavery. Do any of you want your precious exemption from society, including the inability to its roads or criminal justice system? Or do you really just expect all those things (socialist government handouts you didn't pay for), but other sorts don't deserve their priorities?

  • cynical||

    "People have voluntarily formed a collective society called the United States."

    It was chartered and incorporated under an explicit social contract. The corporation has violated the terms of that contract to the detriment of its shareholders/customers, and even its employees (to the extent not only of extreme financial losses but also injury and death). Unfortunately, since it has a monopoly on the governing industry (with other companies in the field completely subject to its market power), the arbitrators of the contract work for it and were trained by it; shareholder lawsuits are a no-go. More direct action is not currently advisable since it also has its own private security force.

  • ||

    tony,
    I have never claimed otherwise, which automatically excludes me from their fraternity.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Max, the idiot,

    How about rule by unregulated con artists and private cops?


    You mean like we have now? Unregulated con artists and cops that act as a private mob instead of public servants.

  • prolefeed||

    How about rule by unregulated con artists

    Ummm, that's the actual definition of "democracy" in the Prolefeed Dictionary TM. Well, the first definition -- others follow it, like "kleptocratic mob rule".

  • Fluffy||

    We're already at the end state Orszag wants. You just need a President with big enough balls.

    Every one of the major federal agencies from EPA on down has vast rulemaking ability. If your party has 40 Senate votes you can count on, just get your appointees in the departments to write whatever rules you want, and if the Congress squawks filibuster any attempt to roll those rules back. Voila. Instant technocracy.

  • ||

    You need 41 votes, and if the rule is unpopular enough there are going to be senators scared of supporting it. MA, RI, VT, NY, CA, OR, and WA are solid blue enough that their senators will reliably vote for whatever statism comes down the pike, but 41 is going to be tough.

  • ||

    And of course, if you go down that route the opposition only needs 41 votes to hold hostage the spending for the wonderful statist things you want to do.

  • Fluffy||

    Like I said - we're already there.

    You just described our politics in 2011.

  • rts||

    The mask slips.

  • ||

    It's not a technocracy, it's an oligarchy of the Progressive elites. Who will soon learn what it is like to live under Chineese rule when they call in the debt.

  • ||

    We need an even larger deficit in 2011 and 2012, to support a weak economy—but a much smaller deficit in 2020 and 2050, to put the nation back on a sustainable fiscal course.

    This week I need to have hamburgers and soda and cupcakes for every meal to keep me sane while I get through this ridiculous workload, but six months to a year from now I need to start eating vegetables and cutting back on sweets so I can lose weight.

  • ||

    Im an alcoholic and lost my job and my girlfriend finally left me. But I've got to go on one last binge and THEN I'll quit drinking!!

  • Every Responsible Person||

    Agreed 100%!

  • ||

    I want to feel every rock when I hit bottom.

  • robc||

    Junkie economy.

    Who created that term? Pro Lib?

  • ||

    Warren stands out in my mind as the one who made that analogy first.

  • ||

    Correct. About the same time he incorporated "doom...Doom...DOOM" into his narratives.

  • robc||

    Yeah, that sounds right.

  • ||

    I don't think it was me.

  • Sudden||

    Needs more coke...

  • ||

    Better yet, some Meth.

  • Terc||

    Excessive gambling has caused me to lose my job, my house and my wife. What I need is a big weekend in Vegas to get me on the road to recovery.

  • ||

    Cool bumper sticker:

    "I'm broke because I spent most of my money on booze, gambling, and women. And the rest was wasted."

  • ||

    To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions

    Automatic policies like a balanced budget amendment?

    Or if we want to be really radical, the Constitution is an apolitical automatic policy too.

  • ||

    If we could spend a crazy amount of money, say $800 billion, then we'd get this economy moving again. Oh, wait . . .

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tulpa,

    Automatic policies like a balanced budget amendment?


    No, like a Generalissimo.

    Generalissimo Obama.... Has a ring to it... Can you imagine his wardrobe?

  • ||

    Col. Quaddafi...Khadffi...Qadifi...whateverthefucky...is currently without need for his flashy wardrobe.

  • Il Douche||

    I like the sound of that.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    It's like he has no clue that all the inertia has resulted from the very policies he supports.

  • Almanian||

    "What we need, then, are ways around our politicians."

    Hey! That's what I keep saying!

    But I think it means something different to me than it does to Mr. Orszag.

  • ||

    by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions.

    How exactly do you create a "depoliticized commission"? He might as well be saying we need to rely more on the thinking power of unicorns to solve our problem because you are as likely to find a unicorn as you are depoliticized commission.

  • sarcasmic||

    How exactly do you create a "depoliticized commission"?

    Easy. You appoint people who are all in line politically, then when they don't argue about politics you say it's because they're "depoliticized".

  • ||

    It's not hard, you just get the commission members from academia instead of from the political branches.

  • Ice Nine||

    Didn't Sarc just say that above?

  • sarcasmic||

    The posts were only a minute apart.

    I blame the squirrels.

  • Ice Nine||

    Ah, 'tis a fair day when I can slip some sarcasm past Sarcasmic. I was merely saying: "you just get the commission members from academia" = "You appoint people who are all in line politically"

  • ||

    because nothing says depoliticized quite like the faculty lounge.

  • Mainer||

    depoliticized = agrees with my sensible policies.

    disagreement with me = politics

  • ||

    ^^This^^

  • o2||

    yep like "judicial activism" = decisions i disagree agree.

  • sarcasmic||

    Wrong.
    Judicial activism is when a judge's decision has the effect of creating law, as opposed to negating it.

  • ||

    Wrong. Striking down existing law is almost always labeled "Judicial Activism" by those on the opposing side of the issue. Negation Creation

  • ||

    Negation not equal to Creation.

    Preview...

  • Gimlet||

    That you, Jesse Jackson?

  • sarcasmic||

    Just because some intellectually dishonest people label negation as "Judicial Activism", and some ignorant people parrot it because they don't care or it fits some agenda or they're just plain dumb, doesn't make it so.

  • shorter o2||

    derp

  • o2||

    ^another libtiod troll

  • Pip||

    Then leave. NO ONE wants you here. NO ONE.

  • teh rael o2||

    and another^

  • goober1223||

    LEGISLATING FROM THE BENCH!!!!one

    It makes as much sense as:

    JESUS LOVES YOU NO MATTER WHAT!!!!one

  • ||

    "depoliticized commission" == Professional Politburo

  • ||

    Yes, less democracy, more bureaucracy. What a brilliant idea.

    I think we should restore some of the checks we initially had on democratic power, but I hardly think handing more power to stupid technocrats is the answer. Like history doesn't show again and again how bad they are at their pathetic attempts at central planning.

  • ||

    The thing is pro, you want checks on government power. Orzag doesn't want any checks on government power. He just wants to end the checks that keep people like him from using the limitless power he thinks the government should have.

    And is it just me, or does this kind of crap coming from a well groomed pasty faced white guy make all the more vomit inducing?

  • ||

    They keep asking for more money and more power, yet the problems they say they want those things for never get solved. In fact, they usually seem to get worse.

  • ||

    Yeah but we have all of these terrible problems. How are they supposed to solve them if you don't give them more money and power? ;-)

  • PO||

    I'd love to see them call the teachers bluff and say yes, we are going to increase education spending 25%, but we're replacing the failed existing staff to hire a better one. For the children of course.

  • ||

    I like that. A PHD in every classroom!! How could anyone argue with that?

  • mad libertarian guy||

    As someone who has had any-a-working relationships with PhDs, I can say without hesitation that a PhD does NOT qualify one to teach.

  • sarcasmic||

    You know who else was a well groomed pasty faced white guy?

  • WTF||

    Moe Howard?

  • ||

    I would rather have Moe Howard running things then Peter D-bag........Moe Howard invested his money wisely, took care of his brother Curly's finances, and died a wealthy man.

  • ||

    Mitt Romney?

  • ||

    You know, you never see Mitt and Moe at the same time. Ever notice that?

  • ||

    They both can claim the title of "The Smart Stooge."

  • Lord Humungus||

    uh... my dad?

  • Mainer||

    "does this kind of crap coming from a well groomed pasty faced white guy make all the more vomit inducing?"

    Yes, because if the government had the kind of absolute power he's angling for, guys like him are expendable useful idiots. He just can't imagine that HE'd be on the wrong side of things and end up in a gulag.

  • Old Man With Candy||

    You left off the bit about that strange mohair piece he has on the top of his head.

  • Ice Nine||

    One of the great mysteries of the universe is that this guy was apparently a big stud in DC.

  • ||

    Chloroform, Ice. Chloroform.

  • ||

    Yes with all his money you'd think he could afford a decent rug (if there exists such a thing--I don't speak from experience).

  • Matrix||

    2nd Amendment is the most powerful check we have.

  • Tony||

    Yes, the correct checks on democracy are those originally instituted solely to give southern slaveowners more political power than they deserved.

    Having an apolitical technocratic bureaucracy to manage the daily affairs of a country only serves to disprove rabid antigovernment dogma, so we can't have that.

  • ||

    Stop spoofing Tony. Even he isn't this stupid.

  • WTF||

    Oh, I think maybe he is.

  • Tony||

    It's not a spoof! "Rule by Experts" is demonstrably superior. In short...it works! Allowing you silly yahoos participation in the political process is something that society simply can't afford any longer.

  • ||

    "rule by experts"? Why, because you are too stupid to decide what type car to drive, what sort of light bulb to use, what food choices to make, and a thousand other decisions free adults make for themselves? Or are you really too stupid to make those? By the way, don't be too sure that the Orzags don't see you as just as much of a yahoo as those whom you dismiss.

  • Kevin Drum||

    Why not? I wish Obama could help me decide what to have for dinner. He's just so damn start.

  • Pip||

    But I already had bullshit for lunch.

  • teh rael o2||

    the usual eh?

  • Old Man With Candy||

    because you are too stupid to decide what type car to drive, what sort of light bulb to use, what food choices to make, and a thousand other decisions free adults make for themselves?

    In his case, yes.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Odd that Tony would decry "rule by experts", when that's exactly what his Team does.

  • Tony||

    Expertise is so overrated. It's the vapors! The magic vapors make the world go around!

  • GroundTruth||

    Didn't I see this on the Simpsons when the scientists took over the government? Worked pretty well until they changed to base-10 time, as I recall.

  • MJ||

    "I think we should restore some of the checks we initially had on democratic power,..."

    Orzag does not want to get rid of checks on democratic power. After all, a vigorous opposition is the primary institutional check on such power. He wants the opposition neutered so that people who agree with him can implement their policies unhindered.

    It is how a republic turns into an autocracy, you can protest against Caesar's edicts as long as you are not effective at doing so.

  • Almanian||

    CAPTION

    "...and then all their freedoms fit into a jar about this big, and we get progressively smaller and smaller jars..."

  • ||

    "My economic theories have as much meat than this ham sub sandwich I'm holding!"

    Good grief that man has one. Punchable. Face.

  • ||

    "This is how I end all of my dates."

  • BakedPenguin||

    + 800 Billion Internets

  • Nipplemancer||

    i am unsurprise.

  • PO||

    naturally, we're going to need some pencil-necked geeks to run things in the new technocracy.

  • GSL||

    Um, between TARP, ARRA, the auto bailouts, programs like Cash for Clunkers, and quantitative easing, DC has pushed about $5T toward "economic stimulus" since 2008. Does it make me an irresponsible economist to suggest that we might want to look for another way to create prosperity, given that blowing through over a third of GDP hasn't worked so far?

  • Tony||

    Well, there are responsible economists and there are corporate affirmative action baby right-wing dogmatist economists who have bought a spot at the table and expect everyone to listen to them, despite their insistence that theory matters more than evidence and mathematics.

  • ||

    I know. They must believe in crazy shit and stupid mathematical functions that tell them things like the stimulus was going to reduce unemployment to 8%. After two years of failure and completely erroneous predictions, you actually have the nerve to talk about evidence. Wow. Every time I think you can't get less self aware, you prove me wrong.

  • Tony||

    If only we could fuel civilization on right-wing talking points. Those things never run out of steam.

    Yes John, Christina Romer made a bad prediction once before Obama was in office, therefore all of macroeconomic theory developed over the last century is wrong, and bullshit dogma nobody serious believes must be tried.

  • Tony||

    Plus when I'm blowing a guy I like to hold his gear just like that dreamy Mr. Orszag is showing in the photo..

  • Restoras||

    Not sure if this is a spoof or not...

  • Tony||

    I have the expression as...umm...Peter too.

  • ||

    They have never made a correct prediction. Between the 1970s, 1990s Japan and now, we are going on three times they have been completely wrong and nearly destroyed the economy.

  • o2||

    is this the same "they" u wrote about at 12:58 above?

  • Pip||

    NO ONE WANTS YOU HERE.

  • teh rael o2||

    couldnt hear you pip. LOUDER PLEASE

  • The pope||

    One prediction Galileo made is correct, therefore, all of aristotelean theory developed over the last four centuries is wrong, and bullshit dogma nobody serious believes must be correct, and Galileo should be put under house arrest instead of burnt at the stake.

  • Tony||

    It is a crime against humanity how you guys have appropriated Galileo to your cause. You don't realize that you're the Church! Galileo was confirmed not because he claimed to be right, but because the evidence showed him to be right. You don't care for evidence, otherwise you wouldn't believe crackpot economics.

  • Fluffy||

    Right now we have solid evidence from three major crashes - the Great Depression, the Japanese crash, and our current recession - where Keynesian responses were tried, and failed.

    There is no empirical evidence that Keynesianism works whatsoever. All we have is "There was a Depression, and FDR was elected, and 8 years later the Depression finally ended so we kinda know Keynesianism works now."

  • ||

    Don't forget the non falsifiable claim that things would have been worse had we not followed the Keynesian remedy. There is always that Fluffy.

  • Tony||

    The near-universal consensus is that WWII (Keynesian stimulus spending) ended the GD. What's the counternarrative? That all the low-tax, laissez-faire policies of the late 40s and 50s ended it?

  • ||

    The counter narrative is that World War II opened up world markets again. And that war rationing created four years of pent up consumer demand and savings. When the rationing ended and people could buy consumer products again, the resulting demand created a boom.

    It should be noted that the Keynesians at the time wanted to keep war planning and rationing because they were sure the ending of the war and the cutting of spending and returning of the troops to civilian life was going to put America back into a depression. And like they have been every other time in history, they were wrong.

    Tony there is a convincing counter narrative. You just know about it because you are a close minded idiot. Read a little bit of history that is not in the New York Times and stop and think once in a while.

  • Maxxx||

    It should be noted that the Keynesians at the time wanted to keep war planning and rationing because they were sure the ending of the war and the cutting of spending and returning of the troops to civilian life was going to put America back into a depression.

    The economic planning remained in effect in Britain until '49 and their economy remained in a depression until the planning was ended.

    The different performance between the US and GB immediately after WWII definitively proves that Keynesianism is destructive.

  • Fluffy||

    There were recessions in the 19th century too.

    Every one of them ended without a New Deal or a World War to end them.

    That's why you have to do better than, "8 years later, the Depression ended." Depressions were ending in less than 8 years without Keynesian policies all along.

    You need to show a marked improvement in recovery from recession or from shocks than existed prior to the adoption of this macroeconomic "consensus".

    Having one recovery that took much, much longer than usual, one quasi-recovery that has never really become robust, and one long period of stagnation that still hasn't ended is not exactly a huge improvement in performance over negative economic events where Keynesian policies weren't applied.

  • Tony||

    The extremes of economic cycles were larger pre-Keynesianism, which is why much of the 20th century saw unprecedented growth and less extreme swings, until we decided to implement pro-cyclical "supply side" policies, for which we can thank our current situation. History simply does not bear what you believe out.

  • Fluffy||

    OK, so now you've completely abandoned your "Keynesian policies are necessary to emerge from recession" argument, and have backtracked to a "Keynesian policies are necessary to avoid extreme swings in economic performance" position.

    But to that I can just say: Then you should be happy we aren't bouncing back from the most recent recession - because that would be an "extreme swing". We should just muddle through with extremely pathetic GDP growth and no improvement in the employment situation for the next 8 years or until the next World War. That way we can enjoy the fruits of our enlightened Keynesian policies!

    Man, keep me away from those "extreme swings"! I'd much rather just suffer through an endless near-recession that never ends! That's the ticket!

  • Surly Chef||

    You're missing the even bigger fallacy in Tony's argument: supply-siders are Keynsian. Both use monetary manipulation to increase aggregate demand, hoping that it will jumpstart growth which they believe will grow the economy faster than the resulting inflation can spread over the whole market. There is no inherent or principled focus on sound money or curtailing spending, just rhetoric. The only real difference is that in one printed money is dispersed in a technocratic/cronyistic way and in the other it is dispersed in a populist way.

  • Ray Pew||

    You're missing the even bigger fallacy in Tony's argument: supply-siders are Keynsian.

    Rothbard described them as "conservative Keynesians".

  • Tony||

    So you would be the two libertarians here who support raising taxes sometimes?

  • ||

    Entire world at war, stimulus spending, same thing. But it's good to know that we can get to full employment by having bomb factories running around the clock. Now we just need a continent to carpet-bomb. Or about 1,000 more Solyndras.

  • ||

    Sending 250,000 of your youngest and most able bodied men off to die does wonders for your unemployment rate.

  • o2||

    no ,a soldiers [JOBZ] is to make the other guy die for his country.

  • ||

    Again, have no idea what that means. Try again in English.

  • teh rael o2||

    age divide grampz

  • skr||

    Do you actually believe that? All my buddies in the service say that a soldiers job is to die for his country so civies don't have to.

  • T||

    "The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his."

    Dead troops don't win wars.

  • Surly Chef||

    "War is a racket."

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Sockpuppet,

    The near-universal consensus is that WWII (Keynesian stimulus spending) ended the GD.


    Would that be from those "responsible economists" you touted above? Doesn't that contradict the notion that the New Deal saved the country from the Great Depression? You can't have it both ways, you lousy sack of lying shit.

    What's the counternarrative? That all the low-tax, laissez-faire policies of the late 40s and 50s ended it?


    No, the rapid contraction of the government after 1946 ended it.

  • GroundTruth||

    Glad to see the Real Tony back!

  • GroundTruth||

    Glad to see the Real Tony back!

  • Old Mexican||

    You can say that again! But don't, please.

  • GroundTruth||

    Sorry, keyboard problems. I usually catch them, but this one made it through. gt

  • ||

    No. King for Life FDR dying ended the Depression.

    All of our competition having their factories bombed into rubble helped too.

  • yonemoto||

    There are responsible economists and then there are liberals who believe that an exponentially growing monetary system won't fuck over the poor in the face of finite-resource planet.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Sockpuppet,

    Well, there are responsible economists and there are corporate affirmative action baby right-wing dogmatist economists who have bought a spot at the table and expect everyone to listen to them,


    That's what I like about the sockpuppet - his manichaeism. It's so quaint, so 5th Century.

  • Ray Pew||

    Well, there are responsible economists and there are corporate affirmative action baby right-wing dogmatist economists who have bought a spot at the table and expect everyone to listen to them, despite their insistence that theory matters more than evidence and mathematics.

    Yes, cause who doesn't realize that human action has been completely described by mathematical models?

  • Mainer||

    Arguing with Tony:

    M: An argument isn't just contradiction.
    O: Well! it CAN be!
    M: No it can't!
    M: An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.
    O: No it isn't!
    M: Yes it is! 'tisn't just contradiction.
    O: Look, if I *argue* with you, I must take up a contrary position!
    M: Yes but it isn't just saying 'no it isn't'.
    O: Yes it is!
    M: No it isn't!
    O: Yes it is!
    M: No it isn't!
    O: Yes it is!
    M: No it ISN'T! Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.
    O: It is NOT!
    M: It is!
    O: Not at all!
    M: It is!
    M: (exasperated) Oh, this is futile!! (pause)
    O: No it isn't!
    M: Yes it is!

  • Tony||

    So stop believing wrongly about everything.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    You bitch about us forcing our "beliefs" on society, yet you cheerlead for that very action.

    You're a piece of something, Tony.

  • Tony||

    But don't let actually reading what I write get in the way of airing your grievances.

    I'm not criticizing you for trying to enact policies on society. That is what I'm for too. You think that's not what you're doing though, you're just letting freedom blossom or some bullshit cop-out. Very convenient for something resembling a dogma to never have to defend any real-world policies or consequences.

    Fact is I want to change society much less radically than you do.

  • Tony||

    But don't let actually reading what I write get in the way of airing your grievances.

    I'm not criticizing you for trying to enact policies on society. That is what I'm for too. You think that's not what you're doing though, you're just letting freedom blossom or some bullshit cop-out. Very convenient for something resembling a dogma to never have to defend any real-world policies or consequences.

    Fact is I want to change society much less radically than you do.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "less radically"

    Oh, ho, sir! It is to laugh! Such a card you are!

  • Greer||

    Good morning!

  • yonemoto||

    What a douchebag. He can't even be brought to make the political equivalent of pascal's wager - if the people don't want to follow the "responsible economists" then let 'em flap in the wind; but heaven forbid those "responsible economists" should be wrong and you pulled an autocratic stunt to back them.

  • ||

    why is anyone even remotely surprised? At this point, fair to say the current conditions are the purposeful result of administration policy. You can't have "transformational change" without chaos.

  • Derivative||

    This Orszag guy is the same guy that told Congress Fannie and Freddie only needed a couple hundred grand of capital. He and Stigliz ran a regression. The word 'regression' so freaked out Congress that they did Barney's bidding.

  • ||

    Shorter Orszag:

    STOP RESISTING!

  • ||

    Excellent caption quote, by the by.

  • ||

    Government - "C'mon man I just need a little something, a little taste, to get me through the week man! Then it's clean and sober! I swear!"

  • MJ||

    "We need an even larger deficit in 2011 and 2012, to support a weak economy—but a much smaller deficit in 2020 and 2050, to put the nation back on a sustainable fiscal course."

    So if we are in recession in 2030 and 2050? This is kicking the can down the road to an absurd degree. We have no idea what the economy will be like in 18 to 38 years, or what the new industries and technologies will be driving the market at those times. Not to mention his prime assumption that increased deficits in the short run are good for the economy. Though one cannot entirely blame him, that idea has spread like a plague through the left.

  • Derivative||

    He used the word, "kurtois" - he must be obeyed!

    http://online.wsj.com/public/r.....tzrisk.pdf

  • Lord Humungus||

    I'll quote Calvin Coolidge - why? why not.

    "About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers."

  • Derivative||

    Biggest $$$ losers ever, and here's what Orszag said. I would be fired if I were this wrong:

    "The paper concludes that the probability of default by the
    GSEs is extremely small. Given this, the expected
    monetary costs of exposure to GSE insolvency are
    relatively small...Even if the analysis is off by
    an order of magnitude, however, the expected cost to the
    government is still very modest."

  • ||

    Are you trying to imply that a man with the world's most obvious toupee, who was laughably wrong about the GSEs and then designed the most ineffective stimulus evah, might be wrong about rule by wise and enlightened experts?

  • Derivative||

    That would be one implication.

    My deeper implication is that Orszag is a criminal.

  • ||

    A democracy that can't produce a good toupee has clearly failed.

  • Restoras||

    Shorter Orszag: Liberty isn't for little people!

    What a douche.

  • Spartacus||

    Yet our polarized political system has proved incapable of reaching a consensus on this common-sense approach.

    Translation: Everyone I know agrees with me, and everyone else is a moron.

  • Thomas Friedman||

    I heartily agree with Orszag.

    And so does Chairman Mao.

  • ||

    Chairman Mao, you say? Is it getting hot in here or is it just me?

  • ||

    These emergency powers I will lay down when the crisis has abated.

  • Old Mexican||

    What's the big problem with democracy[ according to Orszag? Well, for starters, not enough deficit spending.


    Mussolini would have agreed with that!

  • NotSure||

    This moron thinks that a commission can be independent from the very same government that it is getting its money from.

  • Fire Tiger||

    Virtually all responsible economists agree that we should be aiming to reduce the deficit in the long-term but not in the short-term. We need an even larger deficit in 2011 and 2012, to support a weak economy—but a much smaller deficit in 2020 and 2050, to put the nation back on a sustainable fiscal course.

    Wasn't that Greece's business model?

  • NotSure||

    Being responsible nowadays is supporting ever more debt and the continuing the reckless spending that landed all these countries with their massive debt problems. It is certainly Orwellian how words like responsible are being redefined to their very opposite meanings from a few years ago.

  • mustard||

    Say what you will about Soviet Communism, but they went 70 years without having a budget deficit or a government shutdown.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: mustard,

    Say what you will about Soviet Communism, but they went 70 years without having a budget deficit or a government shutdown.


    They only suffered a country shutdown... In Dec 31 1991.

  • NotSure||

    Yes because there is nothing worse than government shutdowns. Those people that mention the millions dying from hunger, the state purges and the general economic malaise - they really do not appreciate how bad government shutdowns are !

  • robc||

    Is Belgium still without a government?

  • robc||

    Answering my own question, June 1, 2011.

    They were 350+ days without a parliament.

  • ||

    Have the raging city-wide fires been extinguished yet and the rape gangs all rounded up?

  • ||

    Senate aide: FEMA has more money than thought

    Once public opinion starts to turn against Dingy Harry for his vote-scheduling chicanery, they find enough money to last possibly till the next fiscal year starts.

    I sure hope they reduced, reused, and recycled by using the same bags to hide the money that the extra Al Franken ballots were "found" in back in 2008.

  • wef||

    Ok, remind me again why I shouldn't call this Orszag crap the technocratic fascist BS that it sounds like?

  • Derivative||

    Because :
    The paper concludes that the probability of default by the
    GSEs is extremely small. Given this, the expected
    monetary costs of exposure to GSE insolvency are
    relatively small...Even if the analysis is off by
    an order of magnitude, however, the expected cost to the
    government is still very modest

  • OT||

    Some Iowa postal workers could be paid for no work

    SIOUX CITY, Iowa - Some workers at a Sioux City mail processing center could be paid even if they don't work after the facility closes.

    The U.S. Postal Service is closing the center on Friday and transferring the work to Sioux Falls, S.D.

    Spokesman Richard Watkins said that about 100 workers have taken other mail jobs and 40 others are on standby status. Those standby workers will have to take other postal service jobs before their contract expires in 2015. In the meantime, Watkins said, they could be asked to report to the Sioux City post office and sit in a room until called upon to fill in where needed.

    Under the contract, those 40 union workers would get $1.72 million plus benefits for doing little or no work.

    http://www.twincities.com/ci_18975140

  • teh rael o2||

    assuming they arent assigned other work. pls post a followup

  • ||

    " In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the First Galactic Empire...for a safe and secure society!"

  • Brandon||

    Shouldn't a government official saying this have led to a summary execution?

  • ||

    40 others are on standby status. Those standby workers will have to take other postal service jobs before their contract expires in 2015. In the meantime, Watkins said, they could be asked to report to the Sioux City post office and sit in a room until called upon to fill in where needed.

    Jobs bank!

    Fuck you, union parasites.

  • Pip||

    And they wonder why they're broke.

  • teh rael o2||

    [UNION] guys call mgmt "they"

  • Tony||

    Bottom line, if cutting taxes and spending created jobs, we'd be going in the opposite direction to where we are, which is an economy weakened by expiring stimulus dollars, while taxes are still historically low.

  • ||

    When "expiring stimulus dollars" demonstrates weakness, why doesn't that tell you that any perceived "strength" from stimulus spending was completely artificial?

    There is no doubt that deficit spending can put people to work. That's not the question. The question is does it grow the economy instead of simply creating an artificial boost? The answer is no. It does not grow the economy, because it does not create any conditions that encourage a rebounding of the business cycle. It simply reshuffles resources while burdening the young.

  • Tony||

    That's a more nuanced criticism than usually found here, which is that "stimulus didunt work!!"

    The theory is that an "artificial boost" that's large enough will create a virtuous cycle of consumer spending and hiring that will eventually sustain itself.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Well... it didn't work. More money down a rat hole... or is that somehow a racist comparison?

    Seriously, you tax'n'spenders have your own Sky Fairy... and his name was Keynes.

  • Fire Tiger||

    Rebuttal - See Greece

  • Fluffy||

    But I could just say that cutting taxes and reducing spending is what stopped the recession from being EVEN WORSE.

    Just like FDR's New Deal interventions PULLED US BACK FROM THE BRINK.

    See? That's how "Magical Tiger Repelling Devices" work. Anyone not near a tiger gets to claim that their device is working. Since we weren't eaten by tigers, I declare our policies a success.

  • ||

    Hell, you could take it a step further, as has been done in the stimulus debate.

    "Sure, the stimulus cutting taxes and reducing spending didn't work as planned, but only because we didn't do enough spending cutting!"

  • ||

    Please define "taxes are still historically low". I don't know what that means. Adjusted for inflation, our taxes are higher than the eighties, the twenties, the 1820's, and the Roman Republic.

  • ||

    Federal, not overall tax burden. Federal taxes are historically low.

  • 1916||

    cough

  • ||

    If we confiscate the "excess" wealth being hoarded by the rich (and line them all up and shoot them and bury them in mass graves), we shouldn't have to worry about cutting spending when the economy recovers.

  • ||

    Didn't Bill Whittle theorize that? It would balance the budget for one year, then there would be no rich people the next year.

  • T||

    Where's your cutoff for rich, P? I need to now so I can structure some things differently.

  • Lurker Jack||

    In other 'Technocracy Knows Best News': your stimulus funds at work

  • ||

    The first would be to expand automatic stabilizers—those tax and spending provisions that automatically expand when the economy weakens...

    Still waiting for the tax and spending provisions to contract from the last several expansions. Here's a little secret: they never contract.

    How about you write a big fat check for it yourself, Orszag, you douchebag?

  • ||

    How on earth did such a moron manage to marry that hot GMA weekend anchor, Bianna Golodryga?

  • ||

    This Orzag prick reminds me of one of those pricks who carries around a small bottle of hand sanitizer in case he has to shake hands with one of the peasants.

  • ||

    Bottom line, if cutting taxes and spending created jobs, we'd be going in the opposite direction to where we are, which is an economy weakened by expiring stimulus dollars, while taxes are still historically low.

    Since 2007, federal spending has gone up (adjusted for inflation) by @$1100BB. There was a $100BB drop in federal spending from 2009 to 2010, but its back up by $350BB in 2011.

    Where are those spending cuts, Tony? Where?

  • Draco||

    Sorry I'm late - busy day!

    Orszag is right about one thing, for sure. Current deficits are too small to support aggregate demand and get people off the unemployment rolls. Another way to express that which should make libertarians (and I am one) very happy is: current levels of taxation are currently too high for the level of government we have. Therefore, cutting those taxes, and necessarily increasing the deficit, is an important part of the way forward.

    You see, we neo-Keynesians aren't going to rely on supply side arguments and Laffer curves. It's pretty simple - we need to reduce the aggregate tax bite to leave more net financial assets in private hands. (Government spending, like on SS or road repair also transfers NFA into the private sector, but people here have a blind spot in understanding that, so I'll only mention it parenthetically for completeness, and tell the more libertarian-friendly half of the story outside of the parentheses!)

    The Republican idea of cutting government spending to "pay for" disaster relief, while potentially a political winner (especially with this crowd), is as stupid as Obama's idea of "paying for" his jobs program with tax hikes on the wealthy. Neither side seems to get it. To reduce excess capacity in a floating exchange rate fiat money regime, you have to increase government deficits, juicing the private sector with more funds. And it's better from a libertarian perspective to do that via tax cuts.

    So, cheer up: while Draco says that Orszag is right about something, he also says the Tony is wrong about something (which should go without saying): his claim above that we are under-taxed at this moment in history is absurd, and belied by the fact that the economy is going right back into the tank again.

  • Bradley||

    There's no less believable political hybrid than a Keynesian libertarian.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "Libertarian socialist" trumps that, Bradley.

  • Bradley||

    Well, there is an anti-state version of socialism. It kind of died out at the end of the 19th century, and its writers are better known as "anarchists" today.

    But they did come from a socialist tradition, and always considered themselves as such, despite pro-market views that could easily put them in the modern-day libertarian camp.

    And they were appalled by Marx's state socialism (to say nothing of the even cruder version promulgated by his disciples). Judging by the amount of time Marx spent attacking them, he almost hated the anarchist-socialists more than the capitalists.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    In the modern sense, putting "libertarian" and "socialism" together is like making a sandwich with peanut butter and cat turds.

  • ||

    We haven't run a budget surplus since 1957, and during the vast majority of those years (all but 4 iirc) the deficit has been more than $100B. Most of the years since 1957 have been pretty prosperous ones.

    Even if I thought it was a good strategry to borrow now and tighten our belts for 30 years (?!) from 2020-2050, I don't believe the latter part is going to happen, sorry.

  • sevo||

    Keynesian econ fails for the same reason Marxist econ fails: Both rely on a fantasy to work.
    Keynesian econ depends on a government over-spending (incurring debt) during economic downturns *only* if that government then pays off the debt once the national (or world) economy 'recovers'. That may have happened, but there's no record of it being anything other than an outlier.
    Marxist econ depends on the "New Soviet Man"; The one whose efforts are directed at a social good rather than his own self-interest. That may have happened, but there's no record of it being anything other than an outlier.
    Both fail because they ignore reality.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    You'll make Tony cry with talk like that.

  • Tony||

    But the "spontaneous order" of the free market is sufficient to create a decent society. That's not magical thinking at all.

  • Avraam Jack Dectis||

    It is nice to see Orszag coming around to automated policy.

    The best automated policy is AUTOBALANCE.

    Autobalance automatically adjusts tax rates based upon a percentage of the previous year's deficit.

    For example, if the percentage were 10% and the deficit were 20% of the budget, tax rates would rise 10% of 20%, or 2%.

    Conversly, if there were a surplus with the same numbers, tax rates would drop 2%.

    If tax rates became too high, that would generate the political will to cut spending.

    It is the elegant solution to a millennia old problem.

  • Avraam Jack Dectis||

    It is nice to see Orszag coming around to automated policy.

    The best automated policy is AUTOBALANCE.

    Autobalance automatically adjusts tax rates based upon a percentage of the previous year's deficit.

    For example, if the percentage were 10% and the deficit were 20% of the budget, tax rates would rise 10% of 20%, or 2%.

    Conversly, if there were a surplus with the same numbers, tax rates would drop 2%.

    If tax rates became too high, that would generate the political will to cut spending.

    It is the elegant solution to a millennia old problem.

    Avraam Jack Dectis

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement