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Saturday, July 28, 2007

George Borjas: Things Could Have Been Worse under Kerry

In response to a recent post, George Borjas argues that things could have been worse under Kerry, something I disagreed with, and still do:

More Kerryisms, by George Borjas: One of my remarks about John Kerry in this post has left Mark Thoma a little puzzled. I wrote:

No matter how disappointed one is with the Bush administration, all it takes is a little googling of John Kerry's latest nonsense to appreciate that things could be worse.

My original post was motivated by Kerry's statement that increasing the minimum wage would be beneficial to employers. It is hard to justify such a statement on the basis of economic models. As Peter Schaeffer wrote in one of the comments to my original post, even an efficiency wage argument makes little sense in this context:

If the efficiency effect was large enough, why wouldn't employers raise wages themselves?

Nevertheless, Mark has a good point about how very disappointing the Bush years have been. Mark says that "Iraq alone is enough to convince" him that things could not be worse with a President Kerry. I'm not so sure.

As I said, all it takes is a little googling to find that Kerry's thoughts on many subjects are, at best, puzzling--and, at least to me, show an undisciplined mind at work. Here are some national security-related examples (all from here):

"I'm an internationalist. I'd like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations."

"You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq."

On the terrorist threat: "I think there has been an exaggeration."

Admittedly, the signature policies of the Bush presidency have been poorly thought out and/or badly managed (e.g., Iraq, Katrina, immigration). And this admission comes from someone who strongly supported Bush the first time around, and less strongly the second time.

Despite this, it is far from clear that the U.S. would be better off if things had turned out differently in 2004. What would this counterfactal world look like if the man at the helm was someone who thought that the terrorist threat was exaggerated, who didn't think much of the men and women in uniform, and who was willing to surrender a big chunk of U.S. sovereignty and place the lives of those men and women he didn't think much of under the "directive" of a very corrupt United Nations?

On the efficiency wage argument, I agree. As I said originally, I didn't mean to endorse the argument, only try to suggest what Kerry might have had in mind ("Without endorsing Kerry's argument, I believe he has in mind an efficiency wage argument..."). My point was that under the argument I thought Kerry was making, pushing the minimum wage higher and higher would not continue to have benefits for firms. Thus the exercise in George's first point does not, in and of itself, rebut Kerry's claims.

On the rest of the post, I have disagreements with all three points, but let me focus on the claim that Kerry does not "think much of the men and women in uniform." How one can say that about a war hero while endorsing someone who has mismanaged the military into disaster after disaster is, well, puzzling (where are George Bush's Purple Hearts, Silver Star, and Bronze Star?). I don't think I need to do a point by point of all the ways George Bush has hurt the military, and directly or indirectly shown disrespect to the men and women in uniform in the process, but I can't see how, say, misleading us into a war that causes needless death and injury on both sides and continuing to push a failed strategy shows much respect for the men and women who pay the costs of Bush's deceptions and decisions.

And it may be useful to remind people that this was an attempt at a joke that Kerry got wrong. What he intended to say was:

Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq.

Using a misstated joke to characterize Kerry's position on the troops when there is a whole history that says otherwise is less than fair.

    Posted by on Saturday, July 28, 2007 at 09:45 AM in Economics, Iraq and Afghanistan, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (114)

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