Monday, June 6, 2011

The fault dear Brutus...

“The fault dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”  (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar)

Recent weak data on May jobs and unemployment disappointed the forecasters that projected better numbers (save Rick Santelli of CNBC who was right on target), and Democrat politicians hoping for an improving economy.  Whenever the numbers fall below expectations, analysts and political apologists typically point to a combination of unique events that affected the prior month: Japan’s tsunami, Midwest floods, rising energy prices, and so on.

What’s missing from these discussions is the economic advice given presidents and Congress by a small army of advisers selected from elite universities and prominent think tanks.  Are they culpable, other than to admit they were shocked and surprised by bad numbers?  On leaving government, most write op-eds for the WSJ or NYT complaining that political realities and other uncontrollable factors threw a monkey wrench into their policy recommendations.  On rare, very rare, occasion, e.g., former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan admitted he misjudged the danger of the housing bubble, an apology is offered.

But most blame the stars, not themselves, and go on to advise the next round of policy makers.   

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