Bad Faith, Pathos and G.O.P. Economics

On professionals who sold their integrity, and got nothing in return.

As 2018 draws to an end, we’re seeing many articles about the state of the economy. What I’d like to do, however, is talk about something different — the state of economics, at least as it relates to the political situation. And that state is not good: The bad faith that dominates conservative politics at every level is infecting right-leaning economists, too.

This is sad, but it’s also pathetic. For even as once-respected economists abase themselves in the face of Trumpism, the G.O.P. is making it ever clearer that their services aren’t wanted, that only hacks need apply.

.. Professional conservative economists are something quite different. They’re people who even center-right professionals consider charlatans and cranks; they make a living by pretending to do actual economics — often incompetently — but are actually just propagandists. And no, there isn’t really a corresponding category on the other side, in part because the billionaires who finance such propaganda are much more likely to be on the right than on the left.

.. Even during the Obama years, it was striking how many well-known Republican-leaning economists followed the party line on economic policy, even when that party line was in conflict with the nonpolitical professional consensus.

Thus, when a Democrat was in the White House, G.O.P. politicians opposed anything that might mitigate the costs of the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath; so did many economists. Most famously, in 2010 a who’s who of Republican economists denounced the efforts of the Federal Reserve to fight unemployment, warning that they risked “currency debasement and inflation.”

Were these economists arguing in good faith? Even at the time, there were good reasons to suspect otherwise. For one thing, those terrible, irresponsible Fed actions were pretty much exactly what Milton Friedman prescribed for depressed economies. For another, some of those Fed critics engaged in Donald Trump-like conspiracy theorizing, accusing the Fed of printing money, not to help the economy, but to “bail out fiscal policy,” i.e., to help Barack Obama.

It was also telling that none of the economists who warned, wrongly, about looming inflation were willing to admit their error after the fact.

But the real test came after 2016. A complete cynic might have expected economists who denounced budget deficits and easy money under a Democrat to suddenly reverse position under a Republican president.

And that total cynic would have been exactly right. After years of hysteria about the evils of debt, establishment Republican economists enthusiastically endorsed a budget-busting tax cut. After denouncing easy-money policies when unemployment was sky-high, some echoed Trump’s demands for low interest rates with unemployment under 4 percent — and the rest remained conspicuously silent.

What explains this epidemic of bad faith? Some of it is clearly ambition on the part of conservative economists still hoping for high-profile appointments. Some of it, I suspect, may be just the desire to stay on the inside with powerful people.

On ‘The View,’ Stormy Daniels reveals sketch of a man she said threatened her

Avenatti said he is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the man’s identification. The sketch showed a man Daniels described as being in his 30s or 40s with sharp cheekbones and wavy hair.

.. The alleged incident came after Daniels tried to sell her story of an affair with Trump to Bauer Publishing. She was interviewed in May 2011 and provided graphic details about their alleged meeting. The story was quashed, according to former Bauer employees, after Cohen threatened to sue.

.. Daniels said she did tell other people about the threat, including family members, friends and people with whom she worked, but she did not identify any of them.

Why are elites rewarding Sean Spicer?

Sean Spicer was no victim. He willingly served a president who asked him over and over again to lie. Rather than resist or quit, he repeatedly stood behind the podium, the face and voice of the White House, and lied

.. Spicer defended Trump’s lie about how there were three million fraudulent votes in the 2016 election.

.. He spent weeks using shifting stories to defend Trump’s lie about President Barack Obama wiretapping Trump Tower.

.. He lied about the nature of the meeting at Trump Tower in June, 2016, between senior Trump-campaign officials and several people claiming to have information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. “There was nothing, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for discussion about adoption,”

.. He insulted and demeaned the free press, continuing an unprecedented assault on objective sources of truth.

.. Melissa McCarthy, in her uproarious impersonation of Spicer (or more like an inhabiting of Spicer) on “Saturday Night Live,” arguably did more than any single human in peeling the bark off the dishonest press secretary. She exposed the peculiar mix of

  • inarticulateness,
  • obnoxiousness and
  • duplicitousness

that defined not only Spicer but also his boss.

..he fellowship for Spicer will be viewed as “honorific,” and hence a validation of his actions, which are defined almost entirely by the lies he told. Harvard absolutely should invite those who have served in this administration, although I grant you, the pickings are slim. But why not invite Sally Yates or James B. Comey? They’d surely have important lessons to depart about the obligations of public servants