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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Brad DeLong Defends Robert Rubin

Awhile back I posted part of an article from The American Prospect by Robert Kuttner on the influence of Robert Rubin within the Democratic Party, "Should Democrats Dump Wall Street?," and noted that it was part of the battle for control of the Democratic Party:

Here's the issue, in a nutshell:

[In 1992] Clinton famously exploded that his whole economic vision and political future were being held hostage by "a bunch of ... bond traders." At another planning session ..., Clinton declared with sarcastic disgust: "Where are all the Democrats? We're all Eisenhower Republicans … . We stand for lower deficits and free trade and the bond market. Isn't that great?"

The article paints a less than favorable portrait of Rubin's influence in the Democratic Party as well as the influence of the Hamilton Project (of which Rubin is a founding member). In particular, it implies that the interests of Wall Street are paramount in the policy prescriptions advocated by Rubin and other members of this group.

Brad DeLong, after reading the article, comes to the defense of Robert Rubin (I should note that Brad worked under Rubin at the U.S. Treasury from 1993 to 1995). Here's a shortened version of Brad's post. The problem Brad has is not the quarrels over whether "Eisenhower-Republican-light policies were America's best option in the 1990s," but rather over the "character assassination" carried out in the article:

Journamalism Watch: Robert Kuttner Unfairly Trashes Robert Rubin, by Brad DeLong: A friend once told me oh, four years ago, that we would be able to tell when the Democrats are on the upswing: it will be when Robert Kuttner decides that trashing other Democrats--not arguing about the future of a party, not arguing about a good society, not debating honorable adversaries, not thinking about policies, not discussing issues, but simply trashing other Democrats--is his Job #1.

Well, it must that time.

Robert Kuttner trashes Robert Rubin.

It is the shoddiest thing I have seen The American Prospect publish.

Consider... Bob Kuttner doesn't dare say that Bob Rubin's real aim is to shape America's public policy to make himself richer--it's false, and it would lose Kuttner too much credibility. But Kuttner does want his readers to think that Rubin is a devious, self-interested plutocrats--hence the insinuations.

It gets even worse... Kuttner simply lies about the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project... And it gets even worse still... Kuttner implies that Rubin sponsored making holders of Mexican bonds whole at the expense of American taxpayers, but he doesn't quite say so.

And the reason that he doesn't quite say so? Because it isn't true, and because Kuttner knows that it isn't true--U.S. taxpayers benefitted handsomely ... But Kuttner wants readers of the American Prospect to think that Bob Rubin enriched Goldman Sachs at the expense of the American taxpayer.

I could go on: I've only covered about a quarter of Kuttner's article. But what's the point? It's not as though Kuttner is making an argument that Rubin was wrong in thinking that Eisenhower-Republican-light policies were America's best option in the 1990s. You can make that argument (and I believe some of it), but that's not what Kuttner is doing. Kuttner, you see, is not in the information business. He is in the character assassination business.

    Posted by on Tuesday, April 17, 2007 at 12:04 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (32)


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