Wednesday, June 19, 2013

No One Cares About the Deficit, Latest Chapter

The CBO says: the Senate immigration bill lowers the deficit (see also a nice explainer from pro-immigration analyst Matt Yglesias).

Liberals who support immigration reform have been having fun since yesterday afternoon pointing out that Republicans who oppose immigration are hypocrites because they will surely ignore or dismiss that effect on what is supposedly one of their main priorities. Well, yes -- but I have very little problem with hypocrisy in general, and even less on this "gotcha" kind. Truth is that immigration policy is terribly important to determining what kind of nation you're going to have; if it increases or decreases the deficit a bit, that's really no reason to support or oppose the policy. And $200B or so over ten years is really nothing to get all excited about. It's more the other way around: anyone who claims to care about deficits would have some obligation to change the bill if the estimates had come back the other way; finding that there's a bit of deficit reduction certainly doesn't oblige people otherwise concerned about deficits to support the bill.

Ah, but there's one group which really should weigh in: the professional deficit scolds. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, for example. That is, they should weigh in if they really want people to take them seriously.

First of all, they (and anyone else whose primary political project is deficit reduction) should be out there backing up the CBO estimates. It's not their job to say that anyone who cares about deficit reduction should vote for the immigration bill, but it is their job -- if they really care about deficit reduction -- to do whatever they can to establish the idea that CBO projections are real, and should be treated as real.

(That's assuming, of course, that they agree with CBO; if not, it's their obligation to do a serious nonpartisan critique).

Second, they should be quick to praise those who propose major legislation that helps the deficit. Not the bill itself; again, even deficit scolds shouldn't be suggesting that people support or oppose major substantive legislation because of relatively minor deficit reduction. But there's little reward out there for what deficit scolds certainly should be thinking of as acting responsibly -- the difference, in other words, between Bush-era Medicare expansion and Obama-era ACA. Indeed, that could be especially helpful for deficit-scolds who oppose a bill: "I'm against this, but the authors deserve considerable credit for doing it in a fiscally responsible way."

In fact, however, most deficit scolds typically do no such thing. Which is why no one should take most of them seriously on deficits. And why many who otherwise would be sympathetic to their supposed cause wind up thinking that their real goals have little to do with deficits and debt.


  1. $200 billion in deficit reduction over 10 years may not be overwhelming, but it's not chump change either. My guess is that Obama would accept that much in new revenue from tax loophole reductions, along with another $100b gained from chained-CPI, as enough revenue to strike a grand bargain.

  2. Also, the CBO projects almost $700 billion in deficit reduction in the second ten years, a little more exciting than $200 billion even if projections that far out are not very precise. This period also roughly corresponds with the period when deficits are projected to start rising again primarily due to baby boomer retirements. I don't agree with the deficit scolds in general, but I agree with JB that they should be commending deficit reduction in bills such as this one.

  3. do whatever they can to establish the idea that CBO projections are real, and should be treated as real.

    Of course, they're probably completely bogus. As the Richwine incident has shown, mentioning the FACT that Mexican immigrants show multi-generation differences in educational outcomes can get one fired. Progressives have stacked the deck badly. Estimating the effects of these things is really difficult; doing it PC style is impossible.

    I like that the CBO is, however, institutionally humble enough to constrain itself to a mere 20 year estimate in the interest of not exaggerating its powers. Good on ya, Cathedral! You're not too cocky!

    1. Here is the page for Christopher Jencks, the very Progressive dissertation adviser to Richwine. Note his impressive credentials. Why did he sign off on Richwine's work and why did he go incommunicado on that fact once Richwine was targeted? Are you able to think past your emotions for one minute?

      In addition, all you have to look at are the 2009 PISA results (which the USG has separated by race.) Although Hispanics do much better in the US than they do in Mexico, they do much worse than non-Hispanic whites.

      These totally uncontested facts need to be included and clarified in CBO estimates of immigrant output when so much of that output is contingent on education. THIS IS OBVIOUS. We need for Progressives to be willing to accept science that discomfits them.

    2. backyard, this would probably shock a person with your sensibilities, but sometimes Harvard (aka "The Cathedral") puts through appalling mediocrities merely to protect its brand. You'd probably never believe such a thing, but I've even heard rumors of widespread malaise among its law students, none of whom fail, since, after all, its Harvard Law.

      So when Richwine publishes a controversial dissertation, the extension of which research would confer professional benefits on another, and no one bites, this means either that other academics are not merely liberal but also self-hating, or perhaps that the Harvard Machine protects its own, no matter how intellectually flawed their output.

      I can see where a fellow like you, who does not at all resonate with the idea of "Big Institutions Behaving Badly To Protect Themselves", would have a hard time reconciling yourself to Harvard putting Richwine through, even though his output was crap. But the market doesn't lie, man. No one cared about his research, in spite of the Harvard imprimatur and the potential benefit to them, if indeed Richwine's stuff had been worth a damn.

    3. Are you able to think past your emotions for one minute?

      Oh, sure. I'm emotional. You are the one who is so absolutely fixated on racial superiority that you are literally incapable of seeing anything else. Strike that -- you are fixated on your own, personal, primary-school theory of racial superiority, in which Hispanics are a race.

      Jonathan makes a comment about neither party actually cares deeply about the deficit, despite their constant claims to the contrary. Your response? Don't you stupid progs get it? Hispanics are stupid! This changes everything!

      I've been calling you a Nazi, but that might be inaccurate. You are actually more fixated on racial superiority than the Nazis were.

      We get it. There's nothing that will make you go back to, and there's nothing that will make you stop connecting everything, no matter how unrelated, to your own racial superiority. In turn, there's nothing that you can do to stop me from commenting on your pre-pubescent intellectual level.

    4. CSH,

      Richwine's dissertation was uncontroversial within the circle of experts who study these things. He was mostly extrapolating from boring work that has shown the same boring and depressing results over time. The mixture of people known as Hispanic always and every time has better test and educational results than blacks and worse than whites. He made the completely reasonable assertion that this will probably continue, so we should account for that in our policy choices.

      It should be a blinking red light to you that so many people want to stop this field of inquiry. This is some dystopic shiz.

    5. backyard,

      Who cares that people are outraged by Richwine's dissertation? What does that have to do with anything, other than ginning up the outrage in your cathedral (that seems, unfortunately, to be your cathedral's raison d'etre?) The relevant points about Richwine's dissertation are these:

      1) He's claiming there's a genetic basis for racial intellectual inferiority, an empirical claim that should be a) easily verifiable, and b) lucrative, if true.

      2) In spite of this, none of his peers care.

      That tells you just about everything you need to know about the quality of his dissertation.

      The reason the eugenics stuff irritates me is that a) its obviously laughable, and b) it plays to the worst human instincts for defacto apartheid. As conservatives, our response to human failing, any human failing, including those chav kids you rightly called out, should be "smarten up, losers!" Eugenics indulges the worst instincts of big government liberals, for example: that race over there underachieves because, well, there's just something inherently wrong with them, and what can you do? Bollocks. To the extent particular races or tribes underachieve, they need to fix their situation, end of story.

      I was recalling how, several iterations of this discussion ago, you linked to Sailer, who himself quoted a Tufts professor questioning the eugenics explanation for Kenyan long-distance running dominance based on the presence of tribes in neighboring valleys without such expertise. Like a bad fart at a cocktail party, Sailer let that one float in the air, indifferent to the damning implication it had for his worldview, cause let's face it, in his Cathedral counterarguments are not laughed off, they don't even exist.

      I was thinking about that one in particular, cause while your totemistic use of Darwin is nice and all, and while Darwin was a great improvement on what came before, he did miss something important: its not survival of the fittest, its survival of the most reproductively successful. In our case, we're hypothesizing a gene that apparently produces a phenotype leading to exceptional capacity for long-distance running.

      A gene which, nevertheless, remains trapped in a valley, never finding its way to the valley next door. A gene for exceptional ability at long-distance running.

      You're free to worship in whatever Cathedral you choose, but a friendly suggestion would be that you keep your eye on the door. I don't think your Cathedral will end well.

    6. Don't you get it CSH? Bernstein links to articles by Jews!! This changes everything!!1

    7. purusha,

      Were all 7 points in my response clear? Are there any that you'd like to refute? Or are you just going to accept that you're wrong and say nothing (as usual?)

      The fact that JB links to Jews to such an overwhelming degree is normal. Nearly all of the major liberal bloggers are from the tiny (3%-ish) Jewish cohort. It's instructive that liberals are obsessed with the race or ethnicity of people, but never seem to even notice the Jewish difference.


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