Indescribable

Will repeats his performance this weekend with a bizarre attack on the stimulus spending. There are three things that are sticking in Will's craw:

  Brian Tierney is CEO of Philadelphia Media Holdings, which publishes Philadelphia's Inquirer and Daily News and has missed loan payments since June. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's spokesman says Tierney has had "a number of conversations" with Rendell about receiving state money that "could come from a number of revenue streams."

He spends about a third of the column attacking this request–why he's doing it is not at all clear. Perhaps we should conclude "Not all spending requests are equally good." But, this doesn't seem to be much of a headline. Maybe I'm missing something here.

 Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat, practiced law for three years, then entered elective office at 29 and has never left, so when he speaks about a world larger than a legislature, and about entities more enmeshed in life's grinding imperatives, he says strange things. Objecting to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler opposing more severe fuel-economy and emissions standards, he says: "They have not yet stopped being controlled by their own self-interest."

This is followed by some equally random sneering at Waxman for supporting the loans to the auto company and emissions standards. I guess in Will's confused mind, the problem with the auto industry is the threat of increased fuel-economy standards. At least, that's the only way I can parse this rambling kvetch.

"Never," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said when voting against the stimulus, "have so few spent so much so quickly to do so little." Three of his contentions are correct. The $787 billion price tag is probably at least two-thirds too low: Add the cost of borrowing to finance it, and allow for the certainty that many "temporary" programs will become permanent, and the price soars far above $2 trillion.

But Cole's last contention is wrong. The stimulus, which the Congressional Budget Office says will, over the next 10 years, reduce GDP by crowding out private investment, already is doing a lot by fostering cynicism in the service of opportunism.

And he ends, like he did this weekend, with an easily debunked misrepresentation.  The C.B.O. report is here . It claims that after raising GDP between 1-4% for the next couple of years (and creating 1.3-3.9 million jobs), the effect of the stimulus over the next decade will decrease. Ultimately in 2019 the increased debt will "crowd out" private investment (i.e. capital will have been attracted to government debt rather than private investment) and this will (may?) reduce the GDP by 0.1-0.3%. Yes that is 1/10 of 1 percent reduction. 

I don't see any real problem of logic here, indeed I'm not sure I see any logic whatsoever. Somehow, Will seems to want to suggest that the stimulus bill is some sort of hothouse of "opportunistic" spending. But, these two little vignettes don't go very far to do that. The first might be an illustration of that opportunism, by the second, Will seems to have forgotten what his column was about and the third is just warmed-over blogo-babble that has been discredited. How the editors of the Post ignore the stench of these columns just baffles me.

3 thoughts on “Indescribable”

  1. Tenure in academia has nothing on the tenure of the likes of Will. It’s mentally jarring that someone who, when not plainly wrong on the obvious and well-known facts, does such an awful job assembling meaningful arguments. Considering the vast salary he commands–equal to scores of academics if not more–this is a real travesty.

  2. The best sense that I can come up with of the whole column is that two things are sort of concerned with “self-interest.” And, somehow vaguely connected to Will’s belief that the stimulus spending is either significantly opportunistic, or involves some opportunism on the part of various interests.

    From this he concludes that the stimulus is fostering some sort of “widespread cynicism in the service of opportunism.” He provides no reason to believe this latter claim and his two examples have about all of the probative value of a dead fish.

    It’s just appalling.

  3. jcasey, what’s with you and George Will’s salary? 🙂
    It tells more about the people that read and pay him, rather than about him.

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