You Economists, With Your Degrees, and Your Knowing Things

This is just disgusting:

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., declined this morning to name a single economist who backs her call for a gas tax suspension.
“I’m not going to put my lot in with economists,” Clinton said in an exclusive appearance on a special edition of “This Week” from Indianapolis.
In light of fierce criticism from economic experts, Clinton said, “We’ve been, for the last seven years, seeing a tremendous amount of government power and elite opinion basically behind policies that haven’t worked well for the middle class and hard-working Americans. … I know if we get it right, if we actually did it right, if we had a president who used all the tools of the presidency, we would design it in such a way that it would be implemented effectively.”

If you think she responded like this because, actually, there isn’t a single economist who think it’s a good idea, you’d be right. As Steve Benen explains,

Stephanopoulos’ question was pretty reasonable. The Huffington Post spent most of Thursday trying to find a single economist — left, right, center, Dem, Republican, even former Clinton administration officials — who could defend Clinton’s idea. Zero turned up. Literally, not one. That should give us a hint about the merit of the proposal.
Second, Clinton’s disgust for “elite opinion” is not only entirely out of character for her, it’s a textbook George W. Bush move. There’s just no excuse for any Democrat, especially one as sharp and knowledgeable as Clinton, to do this.

Indeed, her comments bring to mind nothing so much as The Daily Show’s Tuesday segment on abstinence-only education, in which Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) is shown stating, “It seems rather elitist to me for people who maybe have degrees in this field to feel that they, because they’ve studied it, somehow know better than the parents.” Stewart responded, “And I don’t like these elitist airline pilots with their locked doors and ability to fly planes. I think I know how to fly my own children.” When a biting Jon Stewart quip works against you as well as it does against some Republican backbencher in the House, you know you’re in trouble.
This isn’t her first time denying basic economics in the interest of petty populism. Consider her plan for a moratorium on housing foreclosures. Most agree that this would dry up credit, drive down housing prices, and increase mortgage rates in the future; in short, it’s a horrible, horrible plan, and quite possibly violates Fifth Amendment contract rights. But it’s pretty nice to be able to say “I’m going to end foreclosures for 90 days”, so she does, without regard to what a godawful policy it is.
I haven’t written much about the race lately, if only because it’s so boring and irritating, but this sort of thing reminds me of what’s at stake. On the one hand we have a candidate prepared to wholly reject the hawkish Democratic foreign policy establishment and respect the expertise of economists following an administration who treated experts with nothing but disdain. On the other we have someone threatening to nuke Iran and who dismisses economic expertise as “elitist”. You tell me who deserves to win.

2 thoughts on “You Economists, With Your Degrees, and Your Knowing Things

  1. I’m not sure what’s worse: her outspoken support of a shitty policy, or her willingness to indulge in the worst kind of right-wing framing?
    She’s against elite opinion? I hate to make this comparison, but George W. Bush spent his entire presidency bragging about how he was against elite opinion. Every time she says something like that, she reinforces frames which damage Democrats across the board.
    Here’s to an Obama victory in Indiana, with the hopes that by winning, Clinton will do the party a favor and drop out of the race.

  2. Ah, that last sentence was unclear. What I meant, is that hopefully an Obama win will finally convince Clinton that she will not win the nomination, and that it’s in her (and the party’s) best interest if she dropped out of the race.

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