Once again, it’s time for one of the more popular features on Free Advice, where you the reader get to vote on The Most Astounding Statement I Heard This Week.
Our first contestant is documentary maker Ken Burns, who said the following in a Reason interview with libertarian bad boy Nick Gillespie:
[M]y politics are in some ways irrelevant…[We] work with people of different political persuasions to just tell films that are just general…We have lost this ability to have a civil discourse and history is still a table around which we can agree to have that civil conversation. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t like Abraham Lincoln…
In fairness Burns was saying something particular about why every person to his knowledge liked Abraham Lincoln, but Gillespie cut him off with a snide remark. Then a few moments later Burns said:
Well I think history is sometimes used as a kind of propaganda tool, a superficial, sanitized Madison Avenue celebration of, you know, the ‘goodness’ of America and the good old days, and I’m clearly not interested in that.
Clearly not, Mr. Burns.
Our next contestant hails from New Jersey and is here in the studio today with his lovely wife, Robin. Paul likes cats, number puzzles, and science fiction. In a recent blog post defending “technocrats,” Paul said:
The line from people there, including the president, has been that it was too technocratic. But the real technocrats — people like Christy Romer and, well, me — were saying right from the beginning that the stimulus was too small, etc.; people like Geithner who opposed stronger action were basing their position on gut feelings about confidence, not number-crunching.
And by and large, people who did the numbers have gotten it mostly right; it’s precisely because we’re ruled by crats who trust their guts rather than the techno that we’re in such trouble.
Now this one might be over the heads of some of the members of our studio audience, so we’ll give you a hint. You know how in the debate over the Obama stimulus package, the #1 Smoking Gun of the right-wingers–the thing that all “true” Keynesians have had to disown and throw under the bus, claiming that they would never in a million years have endorsed such a thing–was the report prepared by Obama’s economic team, touting the benefits of his stimulus plan? Surely you remember, this was the document that contained the infamous graph showing how unemployment would peak at 8 percent with the stimulus, and 9 percent (the horrors!) if Obama did nothing.
The report begins with this introductory paragraph:
A key goal enunciated by the President-Elect concerning the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is that it should save or create at least 3 million jobs by the end of 2010. For this reason, we have undertaken a preliminary analysis of the jobs effects of some of the prototypical recovery packages being discussed. Our analysis will surely evolve as we and other economists work further on this topic. The results will also change as the actual package parameters are determined in cooperation with the Congress. Nevertheless, this report suggests a methodology for ensuring that the package contains enough stimulus that we can have confidence that it will create sufficient jobs to meet the President-Elect’s goals.
Sure, the report nowhere says, “Obama’s proposed stimulus package is the exact right thing. It’s just what the doctor ordered. No more stimulus could conceivably be needed.” But go skim that thing, and tell me if you get the sense that the author was warning the reader that it wasn’t enough, and that guts were overruling Keynesian analysis.
Last point: Who was the head of the Obama economic team at the time, and whose name is on the cover of that document?