November 21, 2009

"New Consensus Sees Stimulus Package as Worthy Step."

How do economists reach consensus? Do they confer and corroborate like climate scientists? Or is the consensus achieved through a newspaper editorial process of strategically collecting quotes and designating the speakers as "dispassionate"? Or is it more a matter of slapping a headline on an article that doesn't make a convincing case for consensus at all?

Or are my questions — they're only questions! — too cynical? Consider the sublime hedge phrase "worthy step." If Barack Obama were the captain of the Titanic, would the New York Times call rearranging the deck chairs a "worthy step"?

65 comments:

kent said...

How do economists reach consensus?

Not so much a "reach," in this particular instance, as it is a reach around.

AllenS said...

Since I am the only WI resident in Congressional district 00, and they weren't even able to send me the stimulus money the first time around, what's the possibility of them not screwing it up again.

Scott said...

They achieved this worthy step after a frank exchange of views.

kent said...

Since I am the only WI resident in Congressional district 00

How many jobs "created or saved"...? ;)

vet66 said...

The best way to get consensus is to assume the people the 'consensus' is targeted for are hopelessly ignorant, limit critical discussion only to those who accept your thesis, then convince the target group, i.e. everyone who disagrees with you, that it is in their best interests to accept their pronouncements because they spoke it.

Cap n' Trade is designed to keep the unwashed masses at the back of the cave ooohing and ahhing over the figures dancing on the cave wall while the elitists use hand puppets in front of the not-too-big fire to distract us from their self-serving machinations.

H/T Plato and his myth of the caves which apparently is not taught in schools anymore.

WV; supeo

AllenS said...

Kent,

If they would have sent me the money in the first place, then one job would have been created. Mine!

rdkraus said...

Must involve beer.

vet66 said...

Speaking of Wisconin, I lost a hub cap, axle cover on our coach after hitting a pothole driving across the state recently. The signs proclaiming "Your stimulus money at work" were breathtaking. They reminded me of the old "Burma Shave signs" along the side of the road.

West of the Mississippi no signs on 90/40 and no work. Go figure.

AJ Lynch said...

I call what Obama is doing to the economy "wreckonomics".

In your pursuit of neutrality, you may consider a tag called "Barackonomics".

AllenS said...

Your hub cap will be beaten into a soup bowl to be used for the feeding of the WI homeless. Thanks.

rdkraus said...

Incidentally, are these the same economists who never saw the crisis coming ????

Why doesn't the NY Times seek a concensus of the few economists (and others) who predicted the events of the past few years? Then ask THEM what is the correct course to follow?

Because that would not give them the answer they want.

Pogo said...

"would the New York Times call rearranging the deck chairs a "worthy step""

Brilliant.
And indeed, they have.

One has to ask, in the Obama administration, is the eventual economic destruction a regrettable downturn to be weathered with their help, or a crisis, and therefore a fucking valuable thing that cannot be wasted?

If unintentional and just stupid hubris, the blame will remain on Bush and the GOP.

If intentional, soon enough, internal enemies will be identified, kulaks and wreckers and profiteers who must be blamed and dealt with.

Histroy does repeat, and this is a farce to the tragedy of the 1930s.

Harsh Pencil said...

There is no consensus. I was one of the signers of the big ad against the stimulus put out by Cato and none of us I know who signed it have decided in retrospect we were wrong.

This is just crap.

But also is the idea that somehow not seeing the recession coming is some mark against us. Not being able to predict is exactly what most of our theories predict.

WV: aphol. Too early in the morning for that.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Economists in general are correct about 25% of the time. For example, about 25% are able to predict correctly the direction of interest-rate movement six months ahead.

Looked at a bit differently, three-quarters of the time economists are wrong about the direction of interest rates six months hence. Not the magnitude of the move, only the DIRECTION, up or down.

Flip a coin to answer the same question and you'll be correct half the time, or twice as often an economists.

Economists' predictions aren't just useless, they are cluelessly misleading. 75%, however, makes for a pretty good "consensus," even if it's full of shit.

ddh said...

Speaking as an economist, I think we reach consensus the same way as every other academic discipline does--by talking among ourselves and presenting peer-reviewed papers, usually at annual conventions. The American Economic Association meets in January, so I would hesitate to say in November that economists have reached a consensus on a stimulus package passed in February.

In fact, looking at the NYT article, it says that liberal economists like the stimulus or think it too small; conservative economists think it a waste; and then we have a third group that thinks it "a worthy step." Can you tell from the article how large these three groups are? I can't, and I don't know what the answer would be. I think it is odd in anything other than journalistic terms to describe a three-way split in opinion of unknown size as a "consensus."

Economists have reached consensus on some issues. I'd be willing to bet that about 95 percent of economists think that the minimum wage, rent control, and other price floors and ceilings are bad ideas and that free trade benefits every country that relies on it.

Nonetheless, I doubt economists will reach a consensus on the stimulus. Keynesians who rely on theories that dominated economics back in the 1950s and 1960s almost certainly would endorse the stimulus. Economists who rely on more recent approaches--monetarists and the rational expectations crowd--would be appalled, and the neo-Keynesians would be sceptical, but persuadable.

John said...

"Why doesn't the NY Times seek a concensus of the few economists (and others) who predicted the events of the past few years?"

No matter what happens, you can always find a few people who predicted it. Given an infinite number of monkeys typing, one of them will eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare. That doesn't make him a playwright.

Pogo said...

Liberal economists are like New Age homeopaths.

Their basic science is bullshit, their nostrums never work, and yet people still keep using their advice.

A dog may never get rich, but he'd never fuck up life for all the other dogs by taking more and more food from them (and giving it to a select few purebreds), and calling it a stimulus.

The correct response is a well-placed bite.

Florida said...

"Now that unemployment has topped 10 percent, some liberal-leaning economists see confirmation of their warnings that the $787 billion stimulus package President Obama signed into law last February was way too small. The economy needs a second big infusion, they say."

Offhand: What precisely, is a "liberal-leaning economist?" When did "economist" become just another branch of politics?

But on to the meat of the topic: The fact of the matter is that there wasn't even a first stimulus.

The first $787 billion was regular old pork doled out to interest groups and sold as "stimulus." Much of it went to Democrat-leaning states to cover their budget deficits ... largely into teacher salaries to protect members of the largest teachers' union - a staunch supporter of Commander in Thief Barack Obama.

Very little of it was spent to stimulate job creation. It all was funneled into the pockets of people who, face it, are the government. (If you're a teacher, or a firefighter, or a cop ... you're the government).

The country needs a first stimulus - as evidenced by the 20% unemployment rate (including underemployed).

Then, we need to arrest, try and convict Barack Obama for treason.

c3 said...

I think economists need voting buttons

rdkraus said...

Florida

The $787B was not the first "stimulus." It was the second. Bush had the first one and I think it was $185B.

And you're right it was just a pork sandwich or worse, a slush fund for Obama/Reid/Pelosi to hand out to buy votes.

Florida said...

"Speaking as an economist, I think we reach consensus the same way as every other academic discipline does--by talking among ourselves and presenting peer-reviewed papers ..."

Do you guys work like the AGW "scientists" ... using Alinsky-type tactics to attack disagreeable peers? Massaging or outright faking data that doesn't fit into which ever way your economics "lean?"

We're getting a good glimpse into how "peer review" and "journals" work now that we're seeing the unexpurgated emails of scientists foisting global warming fakery on us.

Please tell me you're not using these same platitudes to make us feel all warm and fuzzy about the "science" of economics.

The NY Times has it right ... the science of economics depends on nothing except which way your politics leans and who is paying for the latest grant that keeps you from having to actually get a real job.

Quayle said...

This is all you need to know about the predictions and views of economists: the very best ones (and I know just such one) are sitting at fixed income trading desks making millions and talking to no one.

If the New York Times wants to get good views on the future of the economy, they should find the 5 largest bond portfolio managers, and see if they can get them to talk, and not just "talk position" as they say in the industry (which is what Al Gore does - he "talks position" every day.)

(And they probably won't.)

Fred4Pres said...

Dr. Utopia says he might not run again in 2012.

Meanwhile Darleen at PW has the agenda for "health care" and it is a wee bit broader than signing up the uninsured:

•An income surtax on taxpayers earning more than $500,000 a year,[1]
•An excise tax on high-cost “Cadillac” health insurance plans that cost more than $8,500 a year for individuals or $21,000 for families,[2]
•An excise tax on medical devices such as wheelchairs, breast pumps, and syringes used by diabetics for insulin injections,[3]
•A cap on the exclusion of employer-provided health insurance without offsetting tax cuts,[4]
•A limit on itemized deductions for taxpayers with a top income tax rate greater than 28 percent,[5]
•A windfall profits tax on health insurance companies,[6]
•A value-added tax, which would tax the value added to a product at each stage of production,[7]
•An increase in the Medicare portion of the payroll tax to 3.4 percent for incomes great than $200,000 a year ($250,000 for married filers),[8]
•An excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages including non-diet soda and sports drinks,[9]
•Higher taxes on alcoholic beverages including beer, wine, and spirits,[10]
•A tax on individuals without acceptable health care coverage of up to 2.5 percent of their adjusted gross income,[11]
•A limit on contributions to health savings accounts,[12]
•An 8 percent tax on all wages paid by employers that do not provide their employees health insurance that satisfies the requirements defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services,[13]
•A limit on contributions to flexible spending arrangements,[14]
•Elimination of the deduction for expenses associated with Medicare Part D subsidies,[15]
•An increase in taxes on international businesses,[16]
•Elimination of the tax credits paper companies take for biofuels they create in their production process–the so-called “Black Liquor credit,”[17]
•Fees on insured and self-insured health plans,[18]
•A limit or repeal of the itemized deduction for medical expenses,[19]
•A limit on the Qualified Medical Expense definition,[20]
•An increase in the payroll taxes on students,[21]
•An extension of the Medicare payroll tax to all state and local government employees,[22]
•An increase in taxes on hospitals,[23]
•An increase in the estate tax,[24]
•Increased efforts to close the mythical “tax gap,”[25]
•A 5 percent tax on cosmetic surgery and similar procedures such as Botox treatments, tummy tucks, and face lifts,[26]
•A tax on drug companies,[27]
•An increase in the corporate tax on providers of health insurance,[28] and
•A $500,000 deduction limitation for the compensation paid by health insurance companies to their officers, employees, and directors.[29]

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Or are my questions — they're only questions! — too cynical?

They're not only questions. You actually believe they're valid critiques of any process among researchers that involves "conferring and corroborating".

I mean, I realize you think that, like certain bloggers, scientists are supposed to stick to themselves and issue pronouncements from on high, without regard for any critical appraisals by other experts in their field, and that the only point of conferring would be for the purpose of achieving the same "ideological" corroboration that bloggers get. But they don't and you can't stand to accept that.

miller said...

"Economics" is a science like "Home Economics" is a science.

Doug said...

When did "economist" become just another branch of politics?

Marx

Derek

bearbee said...

How do economists reach consensus?

Are they all Keynesians?

former law student said...

It's the Goldilocks consensus process:

This stimulus is too big.
This stimulus is too small.

On average, therefore,
This stimulus is just right.

former law student said...

When did "economist" become just another branch of politics?


When they started giving Nobel prizes for every economic theory, no matter how it contradicted all the ones previously honored.

EDH said...

Sometimes the stupidity here at Althouse is so thick you can stir it with a stick.

"Consensus" is what follows a "conversation."

Get it?

wv-"wingesse" = the ability to finesse "teabaggers"

David said...

"If Barack Obama were the captain of the Titanic, would the New York Times call rearranging the deck chairs a "worthy step"?"

Bears repeating.

Quayle said...

"Consensus" is what follows a "conversation."

Get it?


You gotta love the lefties:

They're all about speaking "truth to power" in politics.

Science? Not so much.

Quayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PatCA said...

Does China have any money left to lend us?

former law student said...

Does China have any money left to lend us?

We send them more money each day. The balance of trade deficit with China doubled under the Bush administration

miller said...

"The balance of trade deficit with China doubled under the Bush administration."

That nasty Bush!

I hope we can vote him out of office soon.

former law student said...

That nasty Bush!

Much easier to shutter factories here than re-open them.

At least the unemployed have their God and their guns.

Anthony said...

How "consensus" is reached is in the article itself:

[T]he accumulation of hard data and real-life experience has allowed more dispassionate analysts to reach a consensus that the stimulus package, messy as it is, is working.

You simply define the desired outcome as the only reasonable conclusion; anyone who disagrees isn't legitimate and the "consensus" is created by fiat.

Same way with AGW: anyone who disagrees isn't a legitimate scientist and thus you have consensus.

AllenS said...

Since the unemployed have guns, why not go over to China and take their money. Power to the people!

miller said...

You do know that Bush is no longer in office, right?

I mean, you can check whitehouse.gov and make sure.

downtownlad said...

So now Ann is a climate change denialist.

I expect her to come out publicly as a Creationist in about - oh - five minutes.

How anti-science can Ann get?

1) She thinks that there is a massive, worldwide conspiracy between thousands of climatolgists, government organizations, and universities to fool the entire world about global warming.

2) She is against vaccinating teenagers for HPV, which will prevent thousands of cases of cervical cancer every year. But she thinks there is a massive conspiracy between health organizations and the government to prevent Pap smears for 19-21 year olds, just for the sake of saving money. So she favors a policy that will result in cervical cancer deaths, but opposes a policy that results in less death.

3) Ann also thinks there is a massive conspiracy to stop breast cancer testing for women aged 40-50. But I'm almost certain that she opposes a Democratic Bill that would force insurance companies to provide this coverage.

I won't even get into Ann's NIG conspiracy theory, or the Air Force 1 photo conspiracy theory.

But she thinks it's ok to call Andrew Sullivan a faggot and pray that he dies of AIDS, simply because Sullivan wants a few questions answered about Palin's pregnancy. And Sullivan has not said that he thinks Palin lied about pregnancy - just that he wanted questions answered.

But Ann is convinced that global warming is now a massive fraud. As do 99% of her commenters.

Pathetic. And intellectually lazy.

miller said...

You know, you really should check to see whether dialing it up to 11 on the comments is an effective strategy.

AllenS said...

Climate change denialist?

Go here:
http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2009/11/20/climate-cuttings-33.html

Take a good look at climate change.

former law student said...

You do know that Bush is no longer in office, right?

Hey, Franklin, the Japanese quit bombing Pearl Harbor, right? Get over it. Let it go.

miller said...

Refutation FAIL.

Bush isn't in office. Obama is presiding over a $12 T R I L L I O N debt.

Trillion.

With a "T."

Shouting "Squirrel!" isn't going to change that fact.

10.2% unemployment nationwide
15% in Michigan.

This from a guy who promised that passing this $800 BILLION (or $0.8 TRILLION) plan would lead to unemployment no higher than 8%.

So, this administration needs to admit is just has no idea what to do except spend my grandchildren's money.

Florida said...

"Since the unemployed have guns, why not go over to China and take their money. Power to the people!"

Here's how it works in the real world:

1) Chinese people work hard building us crap.

2) They ship it here via Wal coughChinesecough Mart.

3) The Fed prints up some dollars.

4) We ship those there.

5) They're happy to make a sale. Keeps 'em busy.

8) We now have the stuff they made. They bill us.

Eventually, they'll want us to pay them. And who knows. We might even do that if it's in our interests to do so.

The moment it's no longer in our interests to pay up, we won't.

What are they gonna do ... try to collect?

Good luck with that Chin.

miller said...

Please ignore the Moby.

Moby, Moby, Moby.

WV: chants

really

Michael said...

kent:
Spoken like a true tea-bagger!

Florida said...

"So, this administration needs to admit is just has no idea what to do except spend my grandchildren's money."

They're stealing your grandchildren's money. That's what they're doing.

And you're letting them do it. You should be at the Capital throwing bricks through windows ... just like Democrats would be doing if we were stealing their shit.

Just like Bill Ayers did.

Only Bill Ayers and his friends in the Weather Underground bombed the Pentagon. Killed cops. Threw molotov cocktails. Created mayhem.

Then Bill Ayers had Obama over for dinner. Now look who has all the power.

They do.

Get it?

I'm reminded of The Untouchables. The Chicago Way.

They send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of theirs to the morgue.

miller said...

Florida, I don't mean to insult you, but if you told me the sky was blue I'd go outside to check for myself.

You're a Moby, and everything you say is suspect.

spool32 said...

"Nearly a tenth of the package, $70 billion, comes from a provision adjusting the alternative minimum tax so it does not hit middle-income taxpayers this year. That routine fix, which would do nothing to stimulate the economy, was added in part to seek Republican votes."

I'm left wondering what the effect on the economy would be if we had NOT added this 'routine fix'. Maybe the fix does nothing to stimulate the economy, but NOT fixing it would surely have been worse.

Tully said...

Real economists reach concensus the same way other scientists do. Through the scientific method.

Empirical economists tell you what real-world experience indicates might happen. Theoretical economists tell you what their pet theory indicates might happen.

I only count empiricists as real economists. "Theoretical" economists are little more than theologians with better math skills and huge political agendas.

rastajenk said...

About the only thing I remember from college is an Econ professor professing, "You can line up all the economists end-to-end, and you still won't reach a conclusion."

Bruce Hayden said...

"Nearly a tenth of the package, $70 billion, comes from a provision adjusting the alternative minimum tax so it does not hit middle-income taxpayers this year. That routine fix, which would do nothing to stimulate the economy, was added in part to seek Republican votes."

Actually, that is probably one of the best things they did. Far better to have permanently indexed the damn thing, but, you get what you can.

The problem is that most of what Obama's "Stimulus" package did did nothing for economic recovery, and likely hurt in that respect.

For example, most of the other "tax cuts" were no such thing. They went almost entirely to people who don't pay income taxes already, and, thus could not be tax cuts, and were actually one time payments (or bribes) to them.

The problem is that what is needed are tax rate cuts, which are an incentive for long range investment. Instead, we see one time payments, much of which went to political allies, and, in particular, already employed government workers, and since then, multiple tax rate increases, most notably in the Health Care "reform" legislation, but also in Cap and Trade.

Personally, I think that the only "economists" who could seriously back anything remotely resembling the last "stimulus" package are hard core Keynesians. Somehow, they think that we didn't squander enough money the last time around, and need to up the ante.

I might suggest that the reason for all this is, in reality, that they know that their timing window is rapidly closing, and this, along with Health Care "reform" and "Tax and Bribe" (aka Cap and Trade) are their last chance in a generation at the public trough. If the elections were today, there is a decent chance that the Republicans would retake the House, and as the Democrats continue following totally feckless economic policies, there is little reason to believe that their popularity and trust to govern will continue to plummet.

Bruce Hayden said...

1) She thinks that there is a massive, worldwide conspiracy between thousands of climatolgists, government organizations, and universities to fool the entire world about global warming.

Except that there aren't thousands of scientists doing original research, since the original data is very tightly controlled by those who have a specific political agenda.

And, the grant money has not been parceled out indiscriminately, but rather, as we expected, and these emails seem to corroborate, the grant money has been specifically steered towards AGW proponents and away from AGW skeptics and opponents. And, of course, ditto for publication in peer review journals.

As a note, some had been wondering how the AGW proponents would respond to the disclosure of all that incriminating information over the last couple of days, and this is one of the first, rather weak, attempts. I think maybe we can call it a "what scandal?" approach. It, of course, ignores that these people were at the core, and not the periphery, of the "research" and the "debate", and it appears that they were cheating and falsifying as fast as they could to get their desired, political, goals realized.

WV - sledd - reminds me a bit of Todd Palin

fred said...

The make-up" of the "new consensus" in the Times headline was right there in the first paragraph: "some liberal-leaning economists". The second paragraph refers to "some conservative-leaning economists" disagreeing that the stimulus was a success -- however, that didn't merit mention in the Times headline. No surprise -- only the "consensus" fit to headline.

Ken said...

Since it's the New York Times, consensus is reached by having whatever bootlicker is in the room with Pinch agree with him.

MikeR said...

Via Greg Mankiw:
http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/alesina/files/Large%2Bchanges%2Bin%2Bfiscal%2Bpolicy_October_2009.pdf

kent said...

But she thinks it's ok to call Andrew Sullivan a faggot and pray that he dies of AIDS

I'd ask you to cite the specific posting(s) where Professor Althouse makes those alleged statements... but, why kid ourselves, here? We both know, from past experience, that -- having duly pinched out another malodorous magnum opus, with nary a stray fiber of evidentiary filler accompanying -- you'll simply scuttle back under the sink at the first mention of actually, you know, backing up any part or particle of the spew du jour in question.

Calling someone like you "the Uwe Boll of message board posters" simply isn't vituperative enough, sadily.

My sincere condolences to your parents. Or larval colony. Whatever.

downtownlad said...

Kent - I never said Ann made those specific comments. I said she it was "ok to call" Andrew Sullivan a faggot and hope that he dies of AIDS, etc.

Her commenters make those comments almost anytime there is a post about Sullivan. In fact, they usually expand to make more general abusive comments about gay people in general, or those with HIV. And as I said, Ann is ok with it. Not only does she leave those comments up, but she refuses to even make a public statement in opposition to those comments.

As for people who believe in Climategate - sorry you are all morons. Really. You're morons. not to mention that you're all morally degenerate for supporting a criminal act, in this case theft.

Remember the outrage of when Palin's e-mail account was broken into? Here is the post:

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2008/09/other-btards-were-displeased-to-miss.html

Oh it is so funny to see the hypocrisy amongst Ann's commenters.

kent said...

I said she it was "ok to call" Andrew Sullivan a faggot and hope that he dies of AIDS, etc.

Yes, I understood that to be your demonstrably mendacious assertion from Jump Street, thank you. And I repeat, in turn: you can no more provide any sort of verifiable citation or link to Professor Althouse "saying it's okay to call someone a faggot, or that it's okay to say they hope someone dies of AIDS" than you can hard evidence for the geographical, real-world existence of Candyland, or Narnia.

You're simply pinwheeling and spluttering, now, in pale and obvious attempt to distract from your naked inability to prove me wrong by providing precisely those statements, here and now. That being plainly and promptly called out on the sad ineffectuality of said shucking-and-jiving leaves you shamefaced and humiliated, publicly, is (admittedly) a very hard cheese, indeed.

A far wiser man than you give any outward indication of being might actually manage to learn something valuable from that sort of experience.

As for people who believe in Climategate - sorry you are all morons. Really. You're morons.

“The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.”
-- Professor Phil Jones, 02/02/05

Defend. OnetwothreeGO.

kent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kent said...

Mmmm. Too tough a one for you to try swinging at, first time at bat? Fine, let's try an appreciably simpler one, then.

QUESTION: Destroying data with the specific intent of making certain others cannot replicate your work is --":

A.)"... GOOD science."
B.)"... BAD science."
C.)"... ANTI-science."

(HINT: you might want to at least familiarize yourself with this basic, everyday scientific principle, before actually attempting to answer.)

miller said...

Well of course you can't find any evidence -- Althouse never said that.

Instead, you shout "Squirrel!" in hopes of derailing the conversation.

It's tiresome to the adults, and if you are paying attention (which I doubt) you should be noticing that it doesn't have much effect.

The whole point is (and again this is such an obvious point I am appalled it has to be restated) groupthink is not science. Data is science.

The e-mails from CRU show that the employees and directors (I hesitate to use the good words "scientists" or "researchers") were fudging data and attempting to hide the real data from other scientists and researchers.

The key point is the faked "hockey stick" where fake data was pasted in to show the upward trend of 1998-2000 for Al Gore's famous PowerPoint slides.

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