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From “the best and the brightest” to “the best of the worst”

From “the best and the brightest” to “the best of the worst”

The Kennedy administration has been described as having attracted the best and the brightest to government service, sometimes with bad but well-intentioned results.

I don’t know Alan Krueger, Obama’s new head of the Council of Economic Advisers.  But Ezra Klein claims to know a lot about Krueger, describing him as such:

… Krueger is arguably the leading labor economist in the country.   He’s known for bringing a near-superhuman rigor to a subject that, oddly enough to non-economists, had fallen into a bit of disrepute in the profession …

Obama’s new top economic adviser has undertaken superhuman efforts in a subject matter that has fallen into disrepute.

We’ve gone from the best and the brightest to the best of the worst.  What possibly could go wrong?

Update:  What possibly could go wrong already has, via The Hill:

While at Treasury, Krueger served as a vocal advocate for a number of programs contained in the 2009 stimulus package. In particular, he called on Congress to extend beyond 2010 the Build America Bonds (BAB) program, which encouraged state and local governments to borrow for capital projects by subsidizing the interest costs of their bonds. Those efforts proved unsuccessful, as the BABs expired at the end of that year alongside many other aspects of the stimulus.


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Your mistake was to take the work of a no-nothing like Ezra Klein. Labor economics is anything but disreputable. It was up in to the ’70s, but has become a very hot field. The last Nobel went to three economists for work on labor problems. Alan Krueger, although he is not the best labor economist in the US (Ed Lazear and Jim Heckman pop to mind quickly as better ones), is a very talented guy, unlike Ezra Klein, whose ignorance sometimes seems encyclopedic.

Kreuger authored a study of a minimum wage rise in New Jersey that claims to have proven that raising the minimum wage doesn’t affect unemployment.
Frankly, I think he just proved that there are some markets where they are already paying above minimum just to attract workers. New Jersey, the home of some of the highest incomes and highest taxes in the nation, is most likely one of those communities.
When you fix the deck, you can make the cards to anything.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | August 30, 2011 at 10:15 am

Don’t you love how people like young Ezra elevate the politicians they like to God-like status? The hero worship puts Homer’s Iliad to shame.

Note to young Ezra: There’s nothing superhuman about crunching economic numbers. I’m pretty sure Krueger is not “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”. I doubt he’s allergic to kryptonite, either.

And here’s another clue, while it’s true Evan Thomas was willing to embarrass and publicly humiliate himself on national TV by once saying Obama is “sort of like God”, Obama really does not have Messianic qualities. He’s a garden variety sleazy politician.

Obama’s doing what he should have done initially. The real question is whether the old Clinton crew, which admittedly worked better than the original Obama selections but which also dealt with entirely different problems, is the best answer. My guess is that this is an improvement.

If deficit spending actually stimulated the economy we would have to be experiencing the greatest boom in the known world at this point. And we obviously aren’t.

How much empirical evidence do “progressives” need to demonstrate their world view is completely wrong?

We have been trying this wrong-headed approach since the 1930s and it hasn’t worked. Let’s try something else for 80 years and see how that works…

    Weirddave in reply to WarEagle82. | August 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Your argument has about as much chance as that of an atheist convincing a Christian to abandon his beliefs because “There’s no proof of God”*. Facts don’t matter, progressive “economics” is a cult, and it’s adherents will eagerly drink the Kool-Aid over and over again, even as one by one their preconceptions drop dead before them.

    *Note: I am not an atheist (can’t bring myself to adopt a worldview so devoid of logic and critical thinking), but I would concede that there is indeed no proof of God. FAITH is the entire cornerstone of theism, it’s kinda the point. Faith is fine, necessary even, in the spiritual realm. In the empirical world, however, faith in defiance of evidence top the contrary is lunacy.

How old is Ezra Klein? 17?

LOL, while I’m certain that Dr. Krueger is an intelligent fellow, I don’t think that things like the Cash For Clunkers program that he worked on, is proof of near-superhuman rigor. But maybe the only other choice Obama had for this job was Cthullu and Obama decided on the lesser of two evils here…

    janitor in reply to turfmonster. | August 30, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I don’t know who came up with “Cash for Clunkers” but I’d wager a bet that thousands of high school kids in the U.S. immediately realized it to be a stupid idea that served to burden their ability to purchase a used car.

Cassandra Lite | August 30, 2011 at 11:56 am

What else do we have to know about him beyond the fact that Obama hired him? It’s prima facie evidence of his incompetence. A horse is a horse, of course, of course…

Thought this might be pertinent …

(Hope it isn’t behind the paywall.) Sounds like his views about unemployment benefits doesn’t fit well with the Obamameister’s.

Read a couple of Krueger’s books; you may not like his conclusions, but he’s a careful independent thinker. E.g. “What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism” and “Myth and Measurement” on the minimum wage. Not that I wouldn’t have quibbles. The thing is, however, that retrospective analysis does not necessarily create predictive abilities, especially when variables (the biggest weakness in the field of economics) change over time.

As far as judging an Obama appointee on the fact that Obama appointed the appointee, I’d suggest that Obama doesn’t have capacity to make these decisions on appropriate criteria, but that he takes others’ advice, often colored by inappropriate criteria and immediate political agenda. Obama does have every incentive to want to do well because that will enhance Obama. I think he just doesn’t know how, and it’s past time for the media and “the folks” to get this.