Strange Sounds in the Echo Chamber

Echo ChamberCapt. Fogg over at Human Voices has written an amusing article about a telephone survey he did. I suspect that you’ve had one of these that appear not to be a survey but an advertisement. “Would you vote for Representative Popular if you knew that he ate live kittens? What about if you knew that he wore ear plugs so he wouldn’t have to listen to them scream? Did I mention that his reelection is the seventh sign that will herald Armageddon?”

You get the idea.

Capt. Fogg mentions that he knew the call must be from a conservative group because they always referred to the “Democrat” Party, rather than the “Democratic” Party. This is a dead give away. But he goes on:

You probably aren’t old enough to remember how easy it was to determine political polarity by noting how the speaker pronounced Vietnam. It rhymed with Pete Ham if you were for the glorious crusade to protect American freedom. Curiously the same dialect discrimination obtained with our invasion of Iraq. If it was Eye-wrack, you were for it. But these chuckleheads can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the Democratic Party by saying it right and they’re too smugly stupid to notice that I might notice. They always and steadfastly and in the face of cannon fire, call it the ‘Democrat’ Party.

I think that Capt. Fogg is wrong about these people being too smugly stupid to think he would notice. I think these kinds of idiosyncratic pronunciations start off as a signaling device, but they don’t stay that way. (Geoffrey Nuremberg has written about this, but I don’t own any of his books right now, so I can’t be all learned and shit.) I think people in these subgroups only ever hear people pronounce these things one way, so they think they are only pronounced that way.

This is illustrative of the biggest difference between conservatives and liberals. Even the most extreme liberals live in the regular world where people get most of their news from Scott Pelley and Ellen DeGeneres. But conservatives live in an alternate reality and they don’t get out much. This has major negative consequences like being able to more easily dehumanize other people. But it also affects their language. And them’s fightin’ words!

NPR Provides Platform for Rentier Class Apologist

Jeffrey M. LackerThis is unbelievable.

I fully admit that economics makes my brain hurt and that I find it profoundly confusing. But I understand the fundamentals. The same cannot be said of Jeffrey M. Lacker, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. In its infinite wisdom, NPR put this idiot on the air with no one to counter him.

The kicker was that Guy Raz ends the interview by asking Lacker if, after all is said and done and QE3 works, Lacker will admit that he was wrong. Lacker says, “Course!”[1]

But there’s a problem here: the data are long in. Joseph E. Gagnon, Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, explains:

After his dissenting vote last week, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Jeffrey Lacker, stated: “I do not believe that further monetary stimulus would make a substantial difference for economic growth and employment without increasing inflation by more than would be desirable.” The view that unconventional monetary policy will lead to inflation is commonly held on Wall Street. Yet, more than three years after the launch of such policies, inflation remains at or below the Fed’s target.

More to the point, this is QE3, as in “three,” as in, this is the third time we’ve done this. The other times, Lacker and his cronies said there would be inflation. Greece! Weimar Germany! Zimbabwe! Wheelbarrows of cash just to get a loaf of bread! Instead, the inflation rate is less than 2%—half the rate it was a year ago.

As Lacker states in the NPR interview: he is against the Fed doing anything about the economy and he is against the government doing anything about the economy. Lacker is an advocate for the rentier class and only the rentier class. How it is he is on the Fed Board is obvious enough. How it is NPR gave him a platform for his repudiated economic beliefs is more of a question.[2]


[1] Actually, I don’t think QE3 will work either. It may be somewhat helpful, but it certainly won’t cause inflation. With inflation less than 2% and unemployment over 8%, the Fed should not be thinking about inflation.

[2] I’m just kidding! I know exactly how he got on NPR!

Republicans Have No Ideology

Paul KrugmanThis morning, Paul Krugman notes that Mitt Romney has come out against QE3, with Romney saying that the economy “doesn’t need more artificial and ineffective measures.” He goes on to say that we shouldn’t be “printing dollars.” It is ridiculous, of course. This is the same kind of nonsense that we always hear from conservatives—things like, “At a time when so many families are tightening their belts, [I’m’] going to make sure that the government continues to tighten its own.” Oh, wait: that was Obama. But I’ve never said anything but that Obama is conservative and the point is the same. These reasonable sounding platitudes are just wrong.

Krugman seems to think that Romney is blinded by ideology. He writes:

So where are Romney and his party coming from? Basically, they’ve thrown out 80 years of economic analysis and evidence because it doesn’t fit their ideological preconceptions, and they’re resorting to dubious metaphors—”sugar high” and all that—as a substitute for clear thinking.

I think he’s wrong. Romney isn’t against the Fed helping the economy for ideological reasons; he’s against it because a Democrat is in the White House.

It is a major mistake to think that conservative elites have what we would normally consider an ideology. Their entire organization is dedicated to getting and keeping power. I know that I have sometimes claimed that they are ideologically committed to tax breaks for the rich. But I think I’ve been wrong. They are committed to tax breaks for themselves and their friends. This is just selfishness; it doesn’t rise to the level of an ideology.

We’ve seen this on display in Romney’s response to the attack on our Libyan embassy. The logic is very simple: we’re against it if they are for it. That ain’t no ideology. And I’m surprised that Krugman doesn’t see that.

Afterword

Krugman along with most of the rest of the economics profession is always very careful to show respect for Greg Mankiw and other prominent economists on the Romney team. This is pure in-group politics. The truth is that whatever Mankiw once was, he is simply an apologist now. His response to the Tax Policy Center study (along with two other “respectable” economists and one wingnut) shows this. It isn’t wrong so much as evasive and highly misleading. The same, I fear, can be said for fellow Harvard economist Martin Feldstein. When his analysis of the TPC study found that it was correct, Feldstein simply wrote a deceptive WSJ OpEd where he made it sound like his analysis contradicted the TPC. This is not the kind of intellectual honesty that we should accept from Harvard professors.