Glenn Hubbard is the ultimate example of a conservative economist who has given up all pretense of being a scientist and works just as an apologist for conservative policy. See my article, Conservative Apologia Economics. I really can’t see him talk without having a strong desire to slap him. He’s got the smug demeanor of a man who knows he was once smart and knowledgeable, but now thinks the smartest thing he ever did was to sell his soul for thirty pieces of silver. Unlike Judas, however, I doubt that Hubbard will give his blood money back and hang himself. But it’s pretty to think so.
Any time that Hubbard publicly embarrasses himself, I am very interested. If there were a new cable network “Glenn Hubbard Speaks” (which is the same as embarrassing himself), I would get cable. In fact, that would be a good way to kill me. I don’t think I could tear myself away from the station to eat. It would be like the best drug ever. Or better: Infinite Jest!
So I was all excited this weekend when Hubbard and Tim Geithner got into a bit of a fight. Now I’m no fan of Geithner. But he isn’t Seventh Sign evil like Hubbard is. So there was little doubt where my sympathies would lie. And it turned out like that. In Geithner’s new book, he says that he had a conversation with Hubbard. Hubbard criticized the White House for not jumping all over the Simpson-Bowles budget plan. Geithner said they would when the Republicans said they would be willing to raise taxes as the Simpson-Bowles plan required. Hubbard replied, “[W]ell of course we have to raise taxes, we just can’t say that now.” At least, that’s what Geithner claims.
This exchange makes Hubbard look like a jerk. For one thing, it has been a big Republican talking point that Obama didn’t embrace Simpson-Bowles, even though they are even more against it than the Democrats. But it’s worse than that. Is Hubbard an economist or a Republican political hack? Well, we know the answer to that, but Hubbard would claim that he’s an economist. And just like John Roberts, he would tell you that he just calls economics as he sees it. He has no ax to grind!
Hubbard shot back. “Geithner is making it up. It’s pretty simple. It’s not true.” Oh! My! God! Tim Geithner is lying about Glenn Hubbard! Or so says Glenn Hubbard who has all the credibility of that scorpion who kills the turtle in the famous Aesop’s Fable. Still, it’s he said, he said. Who can know the truth?
Well, Matt Yglesias took a dive into the facts, The Geithner-Hubbard Spat Shows How Conservative Wonks Try to Have it Both Ways on Taxes. He found that Hubbard had actually written an OpEd in The New York Times where he admitted that taxes would need to go up. What does this mean:
There’s a bigger issue here that goes beyond what a repugnant little prig Hubbard is. The conservative movement is based upon this idea that they are just telling the prols what they want to hear but that once they are in power, they’ll do what has to be done. But that never happens. Ever since Bush the Elder, Republicans have decided that raising taxes is toxic. So Hubbard may write the occasional OpEd that says what he knows to be true. But if he were high up in a Romney administration today, he’d be selling the idea that we really need to lower the top tax bracket to 25%. It’s like that line from Mother Night, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” The conservative elites pretend to be as ignorant as the loony base, and in the end, they are as ignorant as the loony base.