October 19, 2006


Grading Congress on the economy (David S. Broder, 10/19/06, Seattle Times)

The editors of National Journal, a respected and independent Washington publication, had the smart idea of inviting 11 distinguished economists to fill out a scorecard on the economic performance of the Republican Congress. The grades are published in the latest issue of the weekly magazine. [...]

Short-term fiscal policy grades averaged out at B minus. Gramley and Sinai gave it an A and A-minus, largely because the tax cuts had stimulated investment and productivity. Five others put it down around C, because so little of the revenue growth was channeled into reducing budget deficits.

The only other category that rated an overall B-minus was government regulation. The range of grades was small, with only one D and seven at or near B. The reason: The economists applaud restraint. As Lereah said, "Less regulation is usually better than more."

That's about all the good news. In long-term growth and competitiveness, the grade was C. No one gave it more than a B, largely because the tax cuts were passed without reforms and because the efforts to improve education and training of the work force seemed feeble.

International economic policy also was graded C. In the face of rising balance-of-payments deficits — a key measure of economic activity between countries — major trade initiatives have stalled. While radical protectionist measures have been rejected, Congress has balked at bigger steps to open international markets, the economists said.

Congress was given a C for its economic leadership and the same grade for its overall economic performance. Aside from cutting taxes, the lawmakers did little to help or harm the economy. They balked at tax reform and Social Security reform, but made some improvements in pension reliability. Overall, this Congress was no better or worse than most of its predecessors, the graders said.

But there was one area where they said it failed and failed badly. That was long-term fiscal policy. There were five F's, three D's, and no grade higher than a B-minus, for a composite grade of D. Speaking of the long-term liabilities of Medicare and Social Security, Gramley told National Journal, "Congress and the administration are not facing" reality. Behravesh called the response to those long-term deficits "quite irresponsible."

Does all this add up to a case for or against the Republican Congress? The economists were not asked that question, but most of their comments convey support for the Bush tax cuts and opposition to the trade restrictions favored by many Democrats.

Let's all put our heads together and see if we can figure out which party votes down the line in opposition to free trade, tax cuts, tax reform, SS reform, pension reform, reductions in regulation...

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 19, 2006 8:12 AM

"Five others put it down around C, because so little of the revenue growth was channeled into reducing budget deficits." Where have these pin heads been? The deficit was down 50%.

btw, there was never a Clinton surplus. The projected surplus ran into a hole in 2001. 2001 was operating under a Clinton budget. So the big hole in 2001 was a Clinton hole. Just like to pre-emptively shut up those who may bring up a Clinton surplus in their arguments.

Posted by: ic at October 19, 2006 2:22 PM

ic, as in oj's post above of incredibly optimistic numbers, the truth doesn't matter.

Posted by: erp at October 19, 2006 6:47 PM