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The Washington Bubble And The Forgotten Economic Crisis

Here are three excellent pieces you should read. They all appear to be about different topics, but there's a common thread connecting them. Let's begin with Dana Milbank's column about the excesses of the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, which has ballooned from a night into a giant, gross, money-soaked weekend:

The fun begins, appropriately enough, at the offices of the American Gas Association, where White House reporters are feted by the lobbyists of the Quinn Gillespie firm. More lobbyist-sponsored entertainment comes from the Motion Picture Association. Along the way, journalists wind up serving as pimps: We recruit Hollywood stars to entertain the politicians, and we recruit powerful political figures to entertain the stars. Corporate bosses bring in advertisers to gawk at the display, and journalists lucky enough to score invitations fancy ourselves celebrities.
Cee Lo Green sings for us. Seth Meyers tells us jokes.Lindsay Lohan’s ex, Samantha Ronson, is our DJ. All the cool kids -- Sean Penn, Kate Hudson, Steven Tyler, Paula Abdul, Courteney Cox, David Byrne and Bristol Palin -- want to party with us. A Johnnie Walker “cigar tent” furnishes us with scotch and hand-rolled stogies. We are handed Fiji water, or Grey Goose vodka, to slake our thirsts, and Sea Terra Organics Vanilla Body Butters to soothe our pores.

Now, for something completely different -- Matthew Yglesias on the disproportionate way unemployment has effected different socioeconomic groups:

Unemployment is lower for college-educated people than for those with only a high school diploma. It's lower for white people than for blacks and Hispanics. And it's lower for middle-aged people than for the young. Not coincidentally, both the Federal Reserve Board and the United States Congress are full of middle-aged white people with college degrees who mostly socialize with other middle-aged white people with college degrees. The editors of major business and political publications look pretty similar. The result is a bubble in which condemning the country to years of higher-than-necessary unemployment as a precautionary measure seems to make sense. 

And here is the Washington Post explaining how even many Senate Democrats are joining in the push to tighten up fiscal policy immediately:

The push-back has come in recent days from Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a freshman who is running for reelection next year. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) told constituents during the Easter recess that he would not vote to lift the debt limit without a “real and meaningful commitment to debt reduction.”
Even Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), generally a stalwart White House ally, is undecided on the issue and is “hopeful” that a debt-ceiling bill can be attached to a measure to cut the federal deficit, said her spokesman, Linden Zakula.

Obviously, politics and public opinion are the driving factor here. Americans don't necessarily grasp the tension between deficit cutting and economic growth, or even distinguish between deficits and unemployment. Republicans, whose political fortunes are inversely tied to the state of the economy, have embraced hoary hard money doctrines that they themselves had rejected for decades.

But elite opinion often pushes back against public opinion and structural limits. In this case, the view that the deficit represents a uniquely high priority, and that we should prioritize it over economic growth even during the greatest economic crisis since the Depression, has been deeply embraced by economic and political elites in both parties. And it's hard to disconnect this from the fact that, for those elites, the economic crisis is over.