Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Politicians Fail Econ 101

While people are quick to criticize college professors as living in the Ivory Tower, it's hard to dispute the criticisms they make of our current presidential aspirants. In a recent piece for CNN Money Magazine, Charles Riley reports from the college campuses where many economics professors argue the presidential candidates - including President Obama - would flunk a basic course in economics.

For example, America's Econ 101 professors say yes. In their view, the candidates continue to offer ideas and policies that wouldn't pass muster in their classes -- populated by 18 year-old college students. "There are so many economic 'misstatements' being made," said Jonathan Lanning, a professor at Bryn Mawr who is teaching two introductory economics classes this semester. "And it isn't confined to any one candidate." Michele Bachmann promised to bring back $2 gas. Tim Pawlenty suggested sustained 5% GDP growth was a realistic target. Rick Perry would balance the budget with lower tax revenues.

Another professor who teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Michael Salemi, was able to identify statements from six candidates that "would earn failing grades in my Econ 101 class." Salemi called Ron Paul's rationale for returning to the gold standard "one of the most dangerous ideas put forward by a politician in recent years." And the idea of waging a trade war with China that was bandied about by Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney at a recent debate? "If we learned anything from the Great Depression it was that starting a trade war by passing new tariffs leads to reprisals," Salemi said. "In the end there are no winners, only losers."

And it's not just Republicans -- the Democratic candidate is slipping too. Neither "side" has a "truly comprehensive understanding of even basic economics," Lanning said. Nelson pointed to President Obama's green jobs initiative, which he said is an attempt to wed job creation and energy production in a way that is unlikely to produce real results. "They should either concentrate on a policy that aids job creation or a policy that creates more green energy; attempts to do both with one policy means they do well on neither goal," Nelson said.

Certainly, we see politics through an ideological bias. But numbers don't lie. And the criticism from econ professors of many political soundbites is accurate.

2 comments:

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Indian Social Affairs said...

Interesting one..