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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Bowling Alone? Erskine Bowles Goes Off the Deep End

Bowling Alone? Erskine Bowles Goes Off the Deep End

Tuesday, 13 July 2010 20:22

When the co-chairman of President Obama's deficit commission gets his deficit numbers off by 100 percent, you would think this would be worth a little media attention. But apparently this is not the case.

Therefore when Erskine Bowles warned the National Governors' Association that the country would be spending $2 trillion a year in interest on the debt in 2020, virtually no reporters thought it was worth mentioning that he had exaggerated the interest burden by a factor of more than 2 the Congressional Budget Office's "alternative scenario" (Table 1-2). 

It is difficult to believe that if Speaker Pelosi or some other prominent Democrat argued for a stimulus package because the unemployment rate is 19.0 percent that the media would ignore their disconnect with reality. It is hard to understand why neither Mr. Bowles nor his co-chair, former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, are not held to comparable standards of accuracy.

(Thanks to Jed Graham who got it right.)


Comments (11)Add Comment
written by izzatzo, July 13, 2010 9:16
A trillion here, a trillion there, cut the man some slack, obviously no one's listening anyway. If it's below a billion it's chump change, not even enough for rounding error, and when it's over a trillion, it's a statistic with no economic meaning, like the number of unemployed or number of gallons spilled by BP into the Gulf. It fell off the radar a long time ago.

What we need is someone with fire in the belly who can move things out of stalemate. Why not hold a Deficit Commission meeting on whether Bernanke's birth certificate is real and invite some Mama Grizzlies to speak on the virtues of Military Keynesianism over monetary policy when stuck in an austerity trap.

At least the reporters might not nod off, and Rush Limbaugh could announce that now God, Obama and Bernanke all three don't have a birth certificate.
All Part of the Campaign to Kill Social Security
written by Hugh Sansom, July 13, 2010 11:11
It seems there is a broad, largely tacit consensus to kill social security (and other social programs). The more threatening the deficit can be made to seem, the easier it is to prosecute the war against the Average American.

Erskine Bowles, Alan Simpson, the vast majority of Republicans, Clinton-style Democrats, and so on — all have their eyes on drastically reducing social security and other programs essential to the poor and middle classes.

As Dean Baker has noted, the Republicans have no qualms about making conditions worse for the unemployed and boosting the numbers of the unemployed in the service of their efforts to recapture Congress and the Presidency (not that Obama is doing things very differently from how the GOP would).
google is no longer a number
written by frankenduf, July 14, 2010 8:12
reminds me of an old mad magazine spoof on sesame street- big bird is teaching kids how to count 1,2,3,4...- then he says, now well learn how the government counts- 1 million, 2 billion, 3 trillion...
That wasn't even the dumbest thing said by a commissioner of the Debt Commission
written by Ailuridae, July 14, 2010 3:57
This from Simpson is even more egregious

"The rest of the federal government, including fighting two wars, homeland security, education, art, culture, you name it, veterans, the whole rest of the discretionary budget, is being financed by China and other countries," said Simpson. China alone currently holds $920 billion in U.S. IOUs.

FFS, you can follow the link in the 2011 budget (or get data for past budgets) and see that gross federal revenue has never been close to being less than SS, Medicare and Medicaid. For 2011 revenue is ~2.5T and these programs plus UI amount to about ~1.6T.

I emailed Balz two days ago about both of these points (they are in clear need of correction) and heard nothing back.
written by richard, July 14, 2010 3:59
Though not nearly of the same order of magnitude, during the meeting before the National Governor's Association, one of the governors made a reference to "an article" titled "this time is different," on 800 years of financial folly. Mr. Bowles responded that the commission had had one of the authors of "the article" appear before the commission. It seems unlike that anyone who has ever seen, much less lifted Reinhart and Rogoff's 463 page tome off the desk would ever refer to it as an article. Regardless of its merits, given the center role this book takes in many of the discussions regarding the role of debt and deficit, it would be nice to think that at least one of the co-chairs had at least enough familiarity with the material to know that it was a book and not an article. This is not encouraging.
What Bowles said in February
written by AndrewDover, July 14, 2010 7:29

And I can tell you, if you just think about the interest on the national debt over the next 10 years, it's going to increase by $650 billion.


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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.