Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Pres. Obama, Send Your Econ. Professors to the Hill

Last night, national air time that was meant to provide Pres. Obama with a platform to address GOP opposition to his stimulus plan was instead largely diverted to several of his nominees’ failures to pay their taxes.  E.J. Dionne reports that this air time was sought due to a growing awareness that the defeated GOP is winning the media battle over his economic initiative ( s/2009/02/obama_losing_stimulus_fight_to .html).  Obama published an Op-Ed in this same issue of the Washington Post to confront GOP obstructionists.  But the stimulus bill has also found plenty opponents on the left.  

Instead of arranging for air time and newspaper space, Obama needs to put his economic team into action to support these efforts.  Many of us find Obama’s academic background a cause for optimism, and his comfortableness with academics a potential boon to his administration.  His economic team is stacked with world-class academic economists.  He needs to take them out of their research mode and put their lecture and seminar experience in the field to engage critics on both sides.

I suggest Obama arrange for some conference rooms in the Capital building all day on Mon.  He should invite legislators from both houses and include members of the press to sign up for presentations given by professors such as Roehmer and Summers, as well as senior advisors with august credentials such as Paul Volcker.  They need to prepare materials for distribution presenting the data that supports both the general architecture of this plan and its particulars and leave plenty of time for questions.  If they cannot answer a particular point convincingly, it needs to be addressed further before submission of the final bill.

An academic president who has surrounded himself with top academics in his effort to lead this country and serve the American people needs to use all of the assets associated with the academic approach to our challenges.  He needs to use them to research and to teach, to field questions and to persuade.  If opponents do not engage, he wins the PR battle.  If they do engage and the encounter produces amendments, he makes good on his promise to listen to us.  If the academics who make up his economic team prove incapable of explaining their plans, absorbing criticism, and making adjustments, then what’s the point of paying for their credentials?


  1. rfahey22

    Obama can’t be expected to do all the work.  Hundreds of people voted for the stimulus in the House; surely one or two of them can defend it.

    p.s.: in hitting the recommend button, I also accidentally hit the moderation button.

  2. HappyinVT

    form care.  They are philosophically opposed to more spending and less tax cuts so anything the Obama team may say wouldn’t sway them.

    Rumor has it that Obama is doing a prime time press conference on Monday.  I think he should take his case directly to the people; screw Congress.  If they aren’t willing to forcefully defend the bill, I guess Obama will have to do it himself.  Let us start calling our Congressional delegations and get them to see what support there is out there.  I’d also like to see Obama have Republican governors arrayed behind him so opponents of the bill can see that reasonable people (yikes, even Palin in this case) know that we need this now.

  3. Steve M

    In litigation, we have this concept called the “battle of the experts” where each side puts an expert up to testify, they both use their impressive qualifications to argue for completely opposite conclusions, and the jury has no real way of knowing who they’re supposed to believe.  You’d like the process to be a quest for truth, but when the jury simply lacks the expertise to evaluate the arcane arguments being presented, they essentially wind up having to guess.

    I’m not sure using economists as advocates really helps us move the ball forward, simply because the other side has their economists too.  To the average person, both sets of arguments sound persuasive.  It’s more effective to have the case made by someone they trust on an emotional level – like Barack Obama – than by someone who has an impressive resume, particularly when you’ll have someone with an equally impressive resume making the opposing argument.

  4. spacemanspiff

    E.J. Dionne reports that this air time was sought due to a growing awareness that the defeated GOP is winning the media battle over his economic initiative.

    I’m not sure about that yet. The MSM is trying to take Obama down (for ratings of course) and they are not even being discrete about it. Everytime I turn on the tube they’ve got the smartest GOP talking head going agaisnt the weakest DEM surrogate ( if that). I don’t see anyway the Prez can win the media war. Most of those criticizing Obama are throwing around this Ras poll to fit their talking points but completely ignoring the Gallup poll. I’m not really sure where the public stands on this but I do know they want something done.


    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 37% favor the legislation, 43% are opposed, and 20% are not sure.


    A strong majority of Americans (75%) want Congress to pass some version of President Obama’s economic stimulus plan, but this group is split down the middle on whether it should be passed as is or with major changes.

  5. Hollede

    I just want to see a few of his smarties on morning jughead and other shows. Jughead has been setting the tone each morning (for me at least)since the stimulus bill passed Congress. And Jughead is a complete idiot. It is making me want to kill my tv.

  6. louisprandtl

    similar take in one of their columns today by Steven Pearlstein

    As long as we’re about to spend gazillions to stimulate the economy, I’d like to suggest we throw in another $53.5 million for a cause dear to all business journalists: economic literacy. And what better place to start than right here in Washington.

    My modest proposal is that lawmakers be authorized to hire personal economic trainers over the coming year to sit by their sides as they fashion the government’s response to the economic crisis and prevent them from uttering the kind of nonsense that has characterized the debate over the stimulus bill during the last two weeks.

    At a minimum, we’d be creating jobs for 535 unemployed PhDs. And if we improved government economic policy by a mere 1 percent of the trillions of dollars we’re dealing with, it would pay for itself many times over.

    I agree with you that these thick-heads at Congress need some quick crash course in economics 101 after observing some of their pontifications of last few days.

    On the other side why are Summers and Volcker locked in a turf battle? Is this appropriate time to be this petty when nation needs both?

    Paul Volcker has grown increasingly frustrated over delays in setting up the economic advisory group President Barack Obama picked the former Federal Reserve chairman to lead, people familiar with the matter said.

    Volcker, 81, blames Obama’s National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers for slowing down the effort to organize the panel of outside advisers, the people said. Summers isn’t regularly inviting Volcker to White House meetings and hasn’t shown interest in collaborating on policy or sharing potential solutions to the economic crisis, they said.

  7. But since Obama’s speech last night, and following comments on this thread, I kind of think that apart from teaching economic literacy, a battle of the academics is the last thing the US needs.

    I love the US, and through contacts in US academe, I know you have the smartest people on the planet on your campuses. But I’ve also noticed, both socially and psychologically, a kind of manic polarity in US political discourse between the ‘librul professor’ and the plain-speaking (Palin-speaking) demagogue. These two halves of the political brain – the demotic and emotional versus the conceptual and systematic – need to be better integrated. It’s one of the things I find so appealing about your current president. He’s a smart knowledgeable professor of law who can also appeal in sonorous and pithy ways to the emotional intelligence of the electorate.  

    But great diary Strummerson, to pose one half of the argument, and stimulate debate.  

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