Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Nell Henderson Washington Post Edition)

Max Sawicky directs us to Nell Henderson committing journamalism in the Washington Post this morning. Here is what Henderson writes:

Chairman Moved a Nation : Democrats were outraged in January 2001, when Greenspan urged Congress to cut taxes, lending a key political boost to President George W. Bush's tax cut proposal.... Greenspan believed the surpluses would continue and suggested that policymakers design "triggers" to scale back the tax cuts if deficits reemerged...

Greenspan did not "believe" the surpluses would continue. He hoped the surpluses would continue, but thought it irresponsible to plan as though they would.

Here is what Alan Greenspan "believed," as told to Ron Suskind by Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill: what he believed in 2001 was that the Bush tax cut was irresponsible:

Alan Greenspan Says That the 2001 Tax Cut Was a Mistake: Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal: May 22 [2001]... Greenspan arrived at the Treasury for breakfast with O'Neill.... Greenspan said that wasn't enough. "Without the triggers, that tax cut is irreponsible fiscal policy," he said in his deepest funereal tone. "Eventually, I think that will be the consensus view."

From Ron Suskind (2003), The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill (New York: Simon and Schuster: 0743255453), p. 162.

We have no reason to disbelieve Paul O'Neill. Greenspan has not denied O'Neill's account. Greenspan has said that his recollection of the meeting "differs" from On'Neill's, but not how his recollection differs--a standard non-denial.

And, of course, Henderson is simply incoherent. If you believe that the surpluses will continue, what's the point of triggers? Only if you hope that the surpluses will continue but recognize that they might not will you care about triggers.

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