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Lisa, I Want to Buy Your Rock

July 24th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Another prime example of the sort of talking point I find grating not so much because it’s specious as because it’s so shamelessly, disingenuously specious:

So here’s a little test for our Republican friends to help them decide the status of the nation’s economy. I dare them to answer these questions truthfully, as Americans first, and not as transparent partisan stooges:

1. Is the stock market stronger today than when Bush left office?
2. Is the banking industry stronger than when Bush left office?
3. Are Wall Street companies (JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, etc) doing better today than when Bush left office?
4. Are the credit markets doing better than when Bush left office?
5. Is the auto industry doing better than when Bush left office?
6. Are the housing markets doing better than when Bush left office?
7. Are retailers doing better than when Bush left office?
8. Is the technology industry doing better than when Bush left office?
0. Are monthly jobless claims lower than when Bush left office?
10. Is consumer confidence higher than when Bush left office?

Of course, the answer to every single one of these black and white questions is yes. Conclusion? It’s abundantly clear that President Obama’s stewardship of the economy has resulted in tremendous improvement from the near-abyss the nation fell into last Fall at the end of Bush’s prsidency. While Republicans can vehemently criticize Obama’s stimulus plan and disingenuously declare its failure all they want, the facts speak for themselves.

Well, no, of course they don’t. Facts pretty much never speak for themselves; anyone who claims they do is just hoping you won’t think too hard about his method of interpreting them. Hell, in some cases the facts aren’t even the facts. New jobless claims are down from the year-end peak, but the total unemployment rate is still higher. The Dow is above where it stood on the day Obama took office, though below where it stood on Election Day, and hit its local nadir in March after falling sharply for the first month after the passage of the stimulus. That doesn’t show Obama somehow screwed up the economy either. It means economies are funny, complicated things determined by a whole variety of factors more salient than “the president’s economic stewardship.”  Economies that crash will eventually recover. Good policy might speed the process up a bit, while bad policy can either slow it down or (more likely) create a pseudorecovery with serious long-term costs that outweigh the short-term benefits. Obviously, if you pour a trillion dollars into a handful of industries, they’ll look healthier just after the injection—a heroin junkie will feel pretty good after the latest shot too.  But you can’t say much of interest about the wisdom or effectiveness of the policies just by observing that things look better now than they did six months ago. You need to know what would have happened under alternative approaches—both now and in another year.

Tags: Economics


       

 

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Brian Moore // Jul 24, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Didn’t Obama say that it was too early to see if the stimulus had worked yet? Why does Lisa disagree with him?

    Man the phrase “stewardship of the economy” really scares me.

  • 2 RickRussellTX // Jul 29, 2009 at 11:47 am

    “Facts pretty much never speak for themselves; anyone who claims they do is just hoping you won’t think too hard about his method of interpreting them.”

    That’s a quotable quote.

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