Economic Illiteracy

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On Sunday, Harold Ford, the former Tennessee congressman who’s considering a run for the New York Senate seat held by Kirsten Gillibrand, published a column on the New York Times‘ op-ed page. He didn’t explain what his job was at Merrill Lynch the past three years, but he did find space to argue that Democrats should cut taxes and reduce deficits. Unfortunately, Ford didn’t identify how, exactly, one might cut the federal deficit while cutting taxes without reducing spending. And although he says that a “bipartisan commission to recommend spending cuts to rein in deficit growth” is a good idea, he doesn’t identify any actual cuts he would support. Clearly, Ford has access to a magic deficit wand that will allow us to slash deficits and taxes without cutting spending. Either that or he wants the political benefit of being a “deficit hawk” without the political costs of acknowledging that cutting the deficit without raising taxes means slashing Social Security and/or Medicare spending. 

In related news, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate minority leader, seems to be ignorant of the fact that cutting government spending in the midst of a recession hurts the economy. Economist Dean Baker vents:

If Senator McConnell really is unaware of such basic economics then it would be appropriate to have a news story highlighting his ignorance. This would be equivalent to not knowing that Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the September 11th attack. Mr. McConnell’s gaffe on this issue is certainly far more newsworthy than items like President Obama’s comment on how white working class people were “bitter” during the primaries. That comment was the topic of many news stories.

It’s a good bet that we will not see a mainstream media story about Ford or McConnell’s trouble with economics.

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