About Jonathan Bernstein

[Jonathan Bernstein writes for various parts of the Washington Post. But his name always links to Robert Samuelson’s page, and regular readers will know that we don’t much care for Mr. Samuelson. But we do care for Mr. Bernstein, so we’ve decided to make an “About Jonathan Bernstein” page for him. Including an image! -Ed]

Jonathan BernsteinJonathan Bernstein does not write a weekly economics column that usually runs in the Washington Post on Mondays. That would be Robert Samuelson. You can be forgiven for thinking it otherwise. Bernstein writes other stuff. But he was most likely never a columnist for Newsweek magazine from 1984 to 2011. But Robert Samuelson was. It’s hard to say exactly what Bernstein was doing before he came to the Post; have you ever searched for “Jonathan Bernstein”? There are at least 26 people on Twitter named Jonathan Bernstein! [It would be totally cool if he changed his name to Jonomatopoeia Bernstein. -Ed]

He began his journalism career somewhere else. It probably wasn’t where Robert Samuelson started, as a reporter on the Washington Post business desk, from 1969 to 1973. In fact, it is quite likely that Bernstein wasn’t even alive in 1973! Bernstein most definitely is not the author of The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath: The Past and Future of American Affluence (2008) or The Good Life and Its Discontents (1995). He grew up somewhere, perhaps even in White Plains, NY like Robert Samuelson.

Unfortunately, I can’t find Robert Samuelson’s email address, because I’m sure he could forward any email to Jonathan Bernstein. They are thought to be close; they even share the same web page.

Guns and Fetuses

Guns and FetusesThis morning, Jamelle Bouie at The Plum Line blog wrote, GOP Isolated on Abortion, Too. It notes that overall, Republican voters are pro-choice, but the party is aggressively anti-choice. The newest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (PDF) shows that 70% of the nation support upholding Roe vs. Wade. In all, 89% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances. (But read my article about people who believe in “exceptions,” On Hating Women.)

So what’s going on here? Democratic voters overwhelmingly support abortion rights. Republican voters support them, but are more divided. Why is the Republican Party so out of touch with their own voters?

You could ask the same question of the Republicans about guns. The vast majority of Republican voters are for universal background checks. The vast majority of NRA members are for universal background checks. But the Republican Party and the NRA itself? Not so much.

Bouie thinks what is really going on is that the Republican base is keeping their elected officials more conservative than the Republican voters as a whole. There is much to this, but I don’t think it is the heart of the matter. The majority of voters can be easily manipulated. So it is one thing for people to calmly be asked if they think women should be allowed the right to abortion. It is quite another to ask them if they want to vote for that guy who is in favor of killing babies! The same goes for guns: there is a big difference between universal background checks and, Obama is taking your guns away!

In the halls of Congress, the Republican constituency is not really the people who voted for them. (And yes, the same thing can be said to a lesser degree about the Democrats.) Their real constituency is big business. So the Republicans get the prols to vote on guns and fetuses. And understand: these people get a return on their investments—just look at the Supreme Court! But to the Republican elite, this doesn’t matter except that it allows them to stay in power. They’re primary concern is to continue to funnel welfare checks to the richest people in the country.

Afterword

Whitecat over at the Denver Post put this up:

If women had assault rifles

I’m Not Krugman

I'm Not KrugmanPaul Krugman coined a new acronym this morning. He was discussing an article by Larry Summers that argues that we are focusing too much on the deficit. The question is: if this is how Summers feels (and it is; Summers is a White Hat) why does he spend the first two paragraphs talking about how terrible the budget deficit is? And it is to explain this that Krugman coins of the acronym. Summers, he says, is providing these two paragraphs as his INK disclaimer: “I’m Not Krugman.” In other words, “I’m not that crazy liberal Krugman who just happens to be an insanely great economist who won the John Bates Clark Medal and the Nobel Prize.”

The point of Krugman’s article is that Summers is mistaken in thinking that he can have a reasonable conversion with the Very Serious Deficit Scolds. As I’ve written about many times before, these people are not interested in the budget deficit at all. Just look at the gold-standard in the field: the Simpson-Bowles proposal. The first thing is does is cut income tax rates. As Matt Yglesias brilliantly pointed out, this ain’t about deficit reduction!

Krugman says the same thing:

Moreover, most of the deficit scolds don’t really care about the deficit; it’s all really about using deficit fears to bully us into downsizing government and tearing down the safety net. Remember, three of the leading deficit-scold organizations gave Paul Ryan an award for fiscal responsibility even though anyone who understood numbers could see that his plans would actually increase the deficit; and David Walker endorsed Mitt Romney despite his budget-busting proposals on taxes and military spending.

Or consider the deficit-scold habit of hectoring President Obama for failing to endorse a balanced combination of deficit reduction through tax increases and spending cuts, despite the fact that this is exactly what he has endorsed, many times. Why, you’d almost think that deficit-reduction doesn’t count if it comes from a Democrat.

And that gets to something important about our political environment: a lot of those Very Serious Deficit Scolds are Democrats. Erskine Bowles and Ed Rendell come immediately to mind. But on some level, this isn’t even about politics. These people are just paid spokesmen. Krugman again:

The reality, first, is that the deficit scolds—who are, after all, making a living by scolding—depend on constant warnings of imminent fiscal crisis to drum up interest. Saying that it’s a longer-term issue, and not our first priority right now, is not something they can afford to hear.

So trying to have an honest conversation with them is worse than useless: it is dangerous. These people already get far too much attention as though they are something more than paid lobbyists. And that’s the battle we need to fight. Trying to convince them that the budget deficit isn’t a big deal will only hurt matters. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” And the Very Serious Deficit Scolds’ salaries most definitely depend on not understanding that the deficit is not killing us.

But then, although INK, I totally agree with him.