Thursday, February 06, 2003

Et tu, Brad?

Apparently inspired by Krugman's heart breaking descent from thoughtful economist to raving partisan, the usually insightful Brad DeLong plays some of the same statistical tricks he usually calls other charlatans out on on his own readers, and perhaps, himself. The Terrible Thing the Evil Bush Administration Has Done Today? Made the country bankrupt by 2050.

2050. Twenty-Fifty. I will be almost 80! years! old! by 2050. Projecting any trend out 10 years is asking for trouble, but 50 years? This is so flagrantly dishonest that, in Brad's own words it really is beyond my comprehension why anyone would do this. Unless, of course, your thinking is impaired by personal bias.

Now, to be fair to Prof DeLong, it is human to have one's thinking impaired by personal bias, and Brad has made his leanings honest and public. The truth of the matter is that predictions are very difficult, especially of the future, and 50 year projections are worthless. It is true, however, that Republicans are using deficits to cut spending, but it is also true that many people are in favor of lower spending, there are good reasons for lower spending, and the US government does not have the equivalent of its monetary regulatory apparatus on its fiscal side, so it relies on deficits. Improving on that is, I think, one of the more interesting problems in macro right now, and I hope we'll have made good progress on it by 2050. (Yes, deficits can also be bad).

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