Just Give It Up and Embrace Keynes Already Just Give It Up and Embrace Keynes Already

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 25 2012 1:42 PM

Just Give It Up and Embrace Keynes Already  

Why is the Obama campaign claiming that government spending hasn't increased dramatically since January 2009? Glenn Kessler slices it into chunks here, but the way Jay Carney brought it up was plenty revealing. At the press gaggle on Wednesday, Carney joked that the press was "wooly-headed" and he had something to hand-feed them. He read the nut graf of Rex Nuttig article at Marketwatch and then added his scattered thoughts.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

CARNEY: That means that the rate of spending -- federal spending increase is lower under President Obama than all of his predecessors since Dwight Eisenhower, including all of his Republican predecessors. That is a fact not often noted in the press and certainly never mentioned by the Republicans. 
REPORTER: You're emulating Herbert Hoover now as a standard --
CARNEY: Not at all.

He wasn't. He was trying to emulate FDR in 1937, who was just as wrong. The argument Carney is trying to make is that the Obama administration is not obsessed with demand-side spending. Forget about the stimulus, which is unpopular. This White House is trying to cut back spending.

The argument is 1) unwinnable and 2) not worth winning. During the 2008 campaign Obama argued that he'd "cut the deficit in half" in his first term. He obviously didn't, and Mitt Romney can say this as often as he likes. And liberal economists -- some of whom work for the White House -- remember that the point of running up a deficit on non-defense discretionary spending and tax cuts was to stimulate the economy.

These people are Keynesians. Why can't they say so?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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