Epstein on How to Shrink Unemployment Lines

Economics No Match For Politics
Richard A. Epstein
December 8, 2009

Last year, even at the height of Obamamania, the president's ardent supporters questioned whether he possessed the technical skills or practical experience needed to deal with the domestic economy. My own view was that Obama's archaic New Deal world view was sure to lead him astray. Not to worry, I was told. He was a responsible and intelligent centrist, who would rely on good professional advisors to fill in the gaps in his knowledge and experience base.

The recent "upbeat" news is that the level of unemployment has leveled off at about 10% after its earlier climb this year. And just what has been the role of his professional advisors in the sorry performance of the last 10 months? To tell, it appears, the president exactly what he and his political advisors want to hear.

Exhibit A is Christina Romer's recent Wall Street Journal column, "Putting Americans Back to Work." Romer heads the president's Council of Economic Advisers. Her column rates as a bit of transparent propaganda that belongs in a fan magazine, not a serious newspaper. If she wrote it of her own volition, she should be fired for economic incompetence. If, as seems more likely, the White House wrote it for her, or told her just what to say, she should resign in protest.

Her column contains nine awestruck references to presidential omniscience and benevolence. Its opening sally placesall the blame on the Bush administration, by claiming that Obama took office at "the height of the worst downturn since the great depression." Funny that she failed to mention the tumultuous events of September and October 2008 had cooled off before then. Nor, of course, did Obama "stop the economic free fall" in those tempestuous autumn days, unless Moses also parted the Red Sea.

Richard A. Epstein