Monday, January 26, 2009

What Crisis? Why the Bush Years Weren't So Bad and Why It's Getting Better All The Time

Obama is already asking for an unprecedented increase in the size of the national debt. Before we go back down that road, maybe we should stop and ask: "What crisis?''

Start with this: You are better off than you were four years ago. After adjusting for inflation, the average American earns about $2500 a year more today than on the day of W's second inaugural. That same average American now spends a little less time at the office or on the assembly line, and a little more time on vacation or on the couch. He or she shops online for products that were unimaginable just four years ago. (How many of you read this morning's paper on your Kindle or iPhone?) The air is cleaner than it was a decade ago and life expectancy is up.

Not that the last president had much to do with any of this. He didn't. It's the way the modern world works. Things improve. Incomes rise, work hours fall, the quality of goods improves. Few things in economics are as consistent as the growth of real GDP per capita over the past 200 years (see chart above).

Today we're in a recession--a moment in time when the march of growth stalls and even gets set back by a couple of years. This happens every now and then. Really. But things pick up again and we move on. Some people get set back a little farther than others; some are unemployed for a while. But the pool of resources is still near an all-time high.

~Economist Steven E. Landsburg in The Atlantic Magazine

8 Comments:

At 1/26/2009 9:46 AM, Blogger wcw said...

I can see why a libertarian like Landsburg might be having some cognitive dissonance in a crisis caused primarily by failures of the regulatory apparatus, but this one is pretty far-fetched even so. When the Taylor rule tells you Fed Funds needs to be at -6%, it's a crisis.

When a libertarian economist tells you about averages, however, it's just another day at the office. Have Landsburg get back to me when I earn the average of my and Bill Gates's annual income.

A better class of right-wing opposition, please. I know smart conservatives exist, since roughly half my friends qualify. Does not a single such write anything down anymore?

 
At 1/26/2009 10:50 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Landsburg is simply making a plain observation yet wcw claims this is a "libertarian" view point. wcs please stay on topic.

You will also notice that the curve is exponential.

 
At 1/26/2009 11:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Bush43 years. Tepid for repuglithugs, a disaster for others.

 
At 1/26/2009 1:14 PM, Blogger 1 said...

West Coast Whiner again showing me at least how his/her inability to come to grips with reality is an ongoing problem for him or her: "When a libertarian economist tells you about averages, however, it's just another day at the office"...

LOL!

What was so hard to understand about the following from Landsburg?

"No doubt the new guy, just like the old guy, will require unprecedented new powers to deal with the unprecedented threat to our well being. Obama is already asking for an unprecedented increase in the size of the national debt. Before we go back down that road, maybe we should stop and ask: "What crisis?''"...

What's funny was that it was Obama's party that caused the problem in the first place...

 
At 1/26/2009 10:27 PM, Blogger wcw said...

Look, Landsburg describes himself as a 'hardcore libertarian.' Learn the facts, maybe I'll have less cause to dream of a better class of right-wing opposition.

If you kids are the A team, though, I believe my hopes are dashed.

 
At 1/27/2009 5:02 AM, Blogger @sethstorm said...


Some people get set back a little farther than others; some are unemployed for a while. But the pool of resources is still near an all-time high.

That does not help those who are unemployed that weren't during the 2nd inaugural.

There may be an upside to using the long-term argument, but that seems to be a desperate one. How about the short term, something that is more relevant?

 
At 1/27/2009 9:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm a lot better off. That's why my property is down 33% and my investments are down 25%.

Hydra

 
At 1/29/2009 5:59 PM, Blogger 1 said...

wcw> whines: "Learn the facts, maybe I'll have less cause to dream of a better class of right-wing opposition"...

You know that old saying: "Physician, heal thyself"...

 

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