Thursday, September 02, 2010

Obama's top economic adviser admits she was and is clueless about the economy

Dana Milbank, no conservative stooge, attended a speech by the outgoing chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, Christine Romer. And Milbank found Romer's presentation rather startling in her admission that she just didn't know how bad the economy was going to be.
Romer, wearing a green suit, read brightly from her text - a delivery at odds with the dark material she was presenting. When she and her colleagues began work, she acknowledged, they did not realize "how quickly and strongly the financial crisis would affect the economy." They "failed to anticipate just how violent the recession would be."

Even now, Romer said, mystery persists. "To this day, economists don't fully understand why firms cut production as much as they did or why they cut labor so much more than they normally would." Her defense was that "almost all analysts were surprised by the violent reaction."

That miscalculation, in turn, led to her miscalculation that the stimulus package would be enough to keep the unemployment rate from exceeding 8 percent. Without the policy, she had predicted, unemployment would soar to 9.5 percent. The plan passed, and unemployment went to 10 percent.

No wonder most Americans think the effort failed. But Romer argued, a bit too defensively, against the majority perception. "As the Council of Economic Advisers has documented in a series of reports to Congress, there is widespread agreement that the act is broadly on track," she declared. Further, she argued, "I will never regret trying to put analysis and quantitative estimates behind our policy recommendations."

But the problem is not that Romer did a quantitative analysis; the problem is that the quantitative analysis was wrong. Inevitably, this meant that, as she acknowledged, "the turnaround has been insufficient."

And what to do about this? Here, Romer became uncharacteristically hesitant to make predictions. She suggested some "innovative, low-cost policies." But the examples she cited - a "national export initiative," new trade agreements and a "pragmatic approach to regulation" - aren't exactly blockbusters.

"The only sure-fire ways for policymakers to substantially increase aggregate demand in the short run are for the government to spend more and tax less," she said. But asked about the main Republican proposal, extending George W. Bush's tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000, Romer replied that doing so would be "fiscally irresponsible."
So short summary: she didn't know what was going on so her predictions were all off. But she's proud of her quantitative analysis even though it was based on false assumptions. Isn't that rather key for any sort of economic modeling? Oh, and she has no idea of what they should do now except that tax cuts are not the answer because that would be "fiscally irresponsible" even though she thinks the government should be spending more money and taxing less." Confused?

So is Christine Romer.