Former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Austan Goolsbee was giving an entirely on-point commentary about Obama’s chances for reelection as a result of the economy. Then, he was about to be interrupted and decided to swing his ideological sword.
“The one thing I’d say is, the argument that its all about the growth of government, the numbers that came out on friday showed that the private sector is growing almost 5% per year. It’s a huge boom. The thing that is dragging down the economy is that the government is shrinking so rapidly that it is pulling down the overall growth rate to 2.8%”
To which Laura Ingraham, duchess of conservative radio, responded “What?! What?! Wait a second…Is this a science fiction show?”
Clearly, she did not agree with the statement Goolsbee was making, George Will’s head shaking and “i know better” smiling suggested he was equally at odds withe the statement. Understandable, the idea that when the government shrinks “the economy” is negatively impacted is jarringly contrary to her Republican populism. Just moments before she was saying how Romney had to stop admitting that the economy was getting better.
But, what Goolsbee was saying is completely accurate. In fact, the report he is referencing said that positive growth in a number of areas “were partly offset by negative contributions from federal government spending and state and local government spending.” This has been widely reported. Even if you don’t ideologically agree with Krugman’s lamentations over austerity, what Goolsbee said was entirely accurate. The implications of that observation are a different argument.
The central problem here is the insurmountable difficulty everyone has in reporting about economics. The practices of journalism and economics are fundamentally opposed to one another. Economics thrives over nuance and detailed debate, whereas journalism relishes breaking issues down to their core and finding the simplest summation possible. GDP, for instance, is often cited as a way of gauging the economic health of a country. (Even worse indicators that is used are the NYSE’s market indicies.) This is accurate, but no one thinks that GDP is the last word on an economy’s health or its long term prospects. You could respect Ingrham’s outburst if it was concerning that, but I suspect it wasn’t. In the long run, austerity will help our government and our economy. We just have to engage in austerity in a measured and gradual way that will not send our economy into a recession.