While Hucksters Lead Us Into the Economic Abyss

This piece from Freakonomics should scare the you-know-what out of anyone in this country with an ounce of sense:

If you follow the economic policy debate in the popular press, you would be excused for missing one of our best-kept secrets: There’s remarkable agreement among economists on most policy questions.  Unfortunately, this consensus remains obscured by the two laws of punditry: First, for any issue, there’s always at least one idiot willing to claim the spotlight to argue for it; and second, that idiot may sound more respectable if he calls himself an economist.

How does one fight the pundits? Well, some economists are trying to do it by regularly polling their counterparts of all ideologies about various issues and reporting on their findings:

Their “Economic Experts Panel” involves 40 of the leading economists across the US who have agreed to respond on the economic policy question du jour.  The panel involves a geographically and ideologically diverse array of leading economists working across different fields.  The main thing that unites them is that they are outstanding economists who care about public policy.  The most striking result is just how often even this very diverse group of economists agree, even when there’s stark disagreement in Washington. 

So what did they find? Among other things:

Let’s start with Obama’s stimulus. The standard Republican talking point is that it failed, meaning it didn’t reduce unemployment. Yet in a survey of leading economists conducted by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, 92 percent agreed that the stimulus succeeded in reducing the jobless rate. On the harder question of whether the benefit exceeded the cost, more than half thought it did, one in three was uncertain, and fewer than one in six disagreed.

Or consider the widely despised bank bailouts. Populist politicians on both sides have taken to pounding the table against them (in many cases, only after voting for them). But while the public may not like them, there’s a striking consensus that they helped: The same survey found no economists willing to dispute the idea that the bailouts lowered unemployment.

The sad thing is this is literally the equivalent of a sick person being surrounded by doctors who know what's wrong with him, but rather than hear a proper diagnosis from a trained expert he only hears a prescribed cure from a bunch of drunken snake oil salesmen. When it comes to our economy isn't it about time we start hearing from the doctors directly?

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