Or perhaps we should say that there’s an untruth undermining Paul Krugman’s argument about economists. The contention is that there are three groups of economists, those Krugman agrees with, those he doesn’t and then those who are pimping out their technical skills to the Republican Party. True, that’s not quite and exactly how he puts it but it captures the essence. The untruth here is that this is entirely to ignore the fourth group, those pimping for the other side. The proof of this is obvious, there is no manner of explaining the career of Larry Mishel other than that technical skills are put to the service of the unions and Democratic Party rather than to the truth other than that.
What you need to know when talking about economics and politics is that there are three kinds of economist in modern America: liberal professional economists, conservative professional economists and professional conservative economists. By “liberal professional economists” I mean researchers who try to understand the economy as best they can, but who, being human, also have political preferences, which in their case puts them on the left side of the U.S. political spectrum, although usually only modestly left of center. Conservative professional economists are their counterparts on the center right. Professional conservative economists are something quite different. They’re people who even center-right professionals consider charlatans and cranks; they make a living by pretending to do actual economics — often incompetently — but are actually just propagandists. And no, there isn’t really a corresponding category on the other side, in part because the billionaires who finance such propaganda are much more likely to be on the right than on the left.
It’s that claim that the same doesn’t occur on the other side which isn’t true. One obvious reason being that while unions may not be made up of billionaires they certainly, collectively, manage to come up with substantial funds and those are indeed spent on furthering a particular agenda.
To take Mishel – for years now he’s been saying that wages haven’t been keeping up with productivity. This is not an error on his part nor of the EPI which he ran. This is a deliberate construction. He fails the basic economic tests with his assertion – he measures wages, not compensation, his productivity measures are skew whiff, he uses, unforgivably, two different inflation measures and well……
But it’s worse than this. The proof that Mishel – and Jared Bernstein the coauthor – are wrong is something Paul Krugman proved before they even came up with their assertion. In fact, it’s almost as if they took Krugman’s disproof of an earlier contention as the method by which they might construct their own propaganda.
A world which contains this chart cannot claim that there are no people who even center-left professionals consider charlatans and cranks; they make a living by pretending to do actual economics — often incompetently — but are actually just propagandists. What makes it worse is that Krugman himself is the disproof of the assertion in the chart. Oh, and that large swathes of the liberal economic policy making apparat take this obvious untruth seriously as a basis for policy. Or, perhaps, propaganda.
The error is that claim that the whoring of technical expertise for propaganda purposes happens only on one side of the political aisle. It’s far too old – and far too lucrative – a profession to be limited in that manner.