Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Biden's Economist

Mrs. P linked to this piece and in it there's this:
Jared Bernstein, who would go on to be Vice President Joe Biden’s top economist when Obama took office, helped, too.

Helped with what, you ask? A statement to accuse ABC of gotcha journalism for asking Obama about Rev. Wright. But that's not what interested FLG. No, what interested FLG is that he'd never heard of Jared Bernstein. Not that FLG imagines the VP's top economist to be a very important job, but nevertheless he'd never heard of Bernstein. A quick check of wikipedia reveals why:
Bernstein graduated from the Manhattan School of Music with Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts where he studied double bass with Orin O'Brien. He earned a Masters Degree in Social Work from the Hunter School of Social Work, and, from Columbia University, he received a Masters Degree in Philosophy and Ph.D. in Social Welfare. He does not have a degree or any formal training in economics.

Calling some guy with degrees in social work an economist is just too much. Not that FLG thinks you have must have a PhD in economics to be an economic policymaker. There are a couple of people with JDs that FLG likes, although Robert Reich isn't one of them. But social work is just too far. Mostly because people with social work training are so confused about all sorts of things economic and, again, are biased toward the present, which makes them all sorts of blind to unintended, indirect, and long-term consequences.

So, FLG guesses his question is whether all VP's economists are ideological hacks?


arethusa said...

So, FLG guesses his question is whether all VP's economists are ideological hacks?

Uh...wouldn't that actually explain a lot? Like this.

Or this.

Or even this.

Anonymous said...

Good catch FLG. did you see the White House chef has been promoted to "“Senior Policy Adviser for Healthy Food initiatives”?

Interestingly, he's not a chef by education. Nor is he a nutritionist and zero med training. Rather, he's a history grad from U of Chicago so we know he knows how to take tests. He did get on the job training in a restaurant before becoming a private chef. Which isn't bad training -- lots of Michelin chefs got their training that way- granted at better restaurant than this guy did -- but does it give you the qualifications for Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives?

Especially given how this policy is being implemented in our schools, ballparks and probably healthcare.

Oh, and it's not considered a promotion - just a realization by title that this is what this guy has been doing since being at the White House.

Mrs. P

The Ancient said...

Herbert Stein used to say that there weren't *any* public policy issues that touched on economics that weren't covered in Economics 101.

(Just saying.)

FLG said...

The Ancient:

I've said roughly the same thing. But most people who come out of econ 101 still don't get the economics way of thinking.

The Ancient said...

I will tell a little story, out of school.

Back in 1988, Senator Gore's "brain trust" decided that he was, more or less, an economic illiterate, and that this might be a passing impediment to his all but inevitable rise to the Presidency.

So they interviewed several people who they thought might be willing to serve as part-time tutors to the future Nobelist on all matters economic.

I am reliably informed that in the course of those interviews, the "brain trust" enthusiastically cited the work of Gore's informal environmental adviser (and Christian charity constrains me from mentioning his name), who had taught Al all that he needed to know about the earth and the threats facing its environment through various audio-visual means.

What they were looking for was someone who could take the same approach with regard to both macro and microeconomics.

I'm not quite sure how it all worked out, but I have my suspicions:


The Ancient said...

most people who come out of econ 101 still don't get the economics way of thinking

Perhaps that's why my friend who talked with Gore's "brain trust" told them a story:

"Old Joe Kennedy spent a boatload of money shuttling Harvard professors down to N Street to tutor Jack on economic matters, and it never accomplished anything. When he finally became president, the only way he could remember the difference between fiscal and monetary policy was to remind himself that William McChesney Martin's name began with an M."

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