NEWS

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May 4, 2008

It's economics, stupid

Whew. It's been a long weekend over here at the Editors Blog as we all recover from our post-Scurvy Awareness Day hangovers. The problem with a Vitamin C overdose is that you can't get over it just by drinking lots of orange juice.Anyway, apparently on her Stephanopolous-moderated town hall in Indiana this morning, Hillary Clinton just referred to anyone who knows anything about economics as "elites." As someone who once wikipediad "sunk-cost fallacy," I am indignant. Here's the quote:

"It's really odd to me that arguing to give relief to a vast majority of Americans creates this incredible pushback...Elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that don't benefit..."
For the record, she was asked to name one credible economist who supported her gas-tax plan (the one that no one supports). And that was her answer. There are some occupations where I think it is acceptable to make sweeping character judgments of everyone in the field. The first job that comes to mind is bounty hunter, but I'm sure I could think of others. Academia, however, is not one of these. Experts in a field almost never come to universal agreement on matters. 1500 years after the fact, historians still debate whether or not Rome actually fell (let alone what caused such a fall). You will find "elites" on both sides of every major policy issue, from poverty to Pakistan. There's an institutionalized contrarianism as well, where experts will adopt a dismissed policy and see if they can make an argument for it.And yet the Clinton gas-tax plan has managed to unite the entire field of economics against one policy proposal. It'd be like discussing creationism at a convention of biologists. I had thought for ages that John McCain's admission that he knows nothing about economics would make him the candidate who knows the least about economics, but now I'm starting to second-guess things.This really shouldn't matter, because politicians pander all the time, especially on economic issues. But there's a difference between speaking to the audience on the trail, and actually introducing legislation that everyone agrees is really bad, just for a few meaningless votes.Last point on this: Apparently later in the program, this happened:
Stephanopoulos turned the mike over to a woman who said she supported Obama and said she makes less than $25,000 a year. "I do feel pandered to when you talk about suspending the gas tax," the woman said, adding: "Call me crazy but I actually listen to economists because I think they know what they've studied."
aww shucks.