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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

'Four Top Economists Huddled Round a Lunch Table'

Aditya Chakrabortty:

...As one of the 10 most expensive private colleges in the US, Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh almost oppresses visitors with neo-gothic grandness... I was a guest of Carol Goldburg, the director of CMU's undergraduate economics program, who had gathered a few colleagues to give their take on the presidential election. Here were four top economists huddled round a lunch table: they were surely going to regale me with talk of labor-market policy, global imbalances, marginal tax rates.
My opener was an easy ball: how did they think President Obama had done? Sevin Yeltekin, an expert on political economy, was the first to respond: "He hasn't delivered on a lot of his promises, but he inherited a big mess. I'd give him a solid B."
I threw the same question to her neighbor and one of America's most renowned rightwing economists, Allan Meltzer. He snapped: "A straight F: he took a mess and made it even bigger." Then came Goldburg, now wearing the look of a hostess whose guests are falling out: "Well, I'm concerned about welfare and poverty, and Obama's tried hard on those issues." A tentative pause. "B-minus?"
Finally it was the turn of Bennett McCallum, author of such refined works as Multiple-Solution Indeterminacies in Monetary Policy Analysis. Surely he would bring the much-needed technical ballast? Um, no. "D: he's trying to turn this country into France."
Some of these comments were surely made for the benefit of their audience: faced with a mere scribbler, the scholars had evidently decided to hold the algebra, and instead talk human. Even so, this was a remarkable row. Here were four economists on the same faculty, who probably taught some of the same students; yet Obama's reputation depended on entirely on who was doing the assessment. The president was either B or F, good or a failure: opposite poles with no middle ground, and not even a joint agreement of the judging criteria. ...

    Posted by on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 12:24 AM in Economics, Macroeconomics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (29)


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