Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is Larry Summers Really a Conservative?

Is Larry Summers Really a Conservative?


(At Swampland, Michael Scherer posts the wisdom of Larry Summers in the form of his exit address to the Economic Policy Institute, the transcript of which is well worth reading in full, and then after which the question is equally worth answering: Is Larry Summers a conservative or a liberal...Or is he something else? My commentary response to Scherer's applause follows.)

Michael Scherer:

So...no mention whatsoever of Larry Summers' disastrous advice with respect to dismantling New Deal banking industry regulations and deregulating credit derivatives ten years ago?


Isn't this sort of like having a person who, while in positions of power in government, strongly advocated (and ultimately accomplished) an invasion of Iraq --twice-- opine on today's foreign policy?

Why didn't you feel compelled, as a journalist, to mention Summers' role in the past decade's financial disaster, Michael Scherer? I assume you are aware of it...

As such, one could leave the criticism right there, but this

"He is approvingly quoting Daniel Patrick Moynihan's argument that increased government involvement in the health care sector is a risky idea."

really can't go without some kind of remedial examination --it just can't.

If you take Summers at his word, it is just incredible for its depth of denial.

Summers makes the fatuous pronouncement:

"every five years the share of GDP devoted to government spending on health care goes up by 1 percentage point"

, and one really wonders what kind of ideological hoops the guy has to jump through in order to leave the increases in private sector health care spending out of that analysis.

The thing that's particularly dishonest about Summers' orthodoxy is that he knows these data exist:


CMS (Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services), US Department of Health and Human Services

Projected National Health Expenditure, 2009-2019:

* Growth in NHE is expected to increase 5.7 percent in 2009 and average 6.1 percent per year over the projection period (2009-2019).

* The health share of GDP is projected to reach 17.3 percent in 2009 and 19.3 percent by 2019.

* Medicare spending is projected to grow 8.1% in 2009 and average 6.9% per year over the projection period.

* Medicaid spending is projected to grow 9.9% in 2009 and average 7.9% per year over the projection period.

* Private spending is projected to grow 3.0% in 2009 and average 5.2% per year over the projection period.

Summers is apparently just incapable of honesty when it comes to analysis that contradicts his favorite theories.

What other explanation is there for omitting the fact that it isn't only public spending on health care that will be wildly out of control over the next 10 years, but private health care prices that will outpace inflation, as well?

And this descent into political hackery:

"This is why the recent tax agreement concluded between the President and congressional leaders is so important. It averts what could have been a serious collapse in purchasing power and adds far more fiscal support than most observers thought politically possible through:

• An extension of unemployment insurance,

• A payroll tax holiday,

• Refundable tax credits and business expensing.

is equally disgusting, equally par for the course with Summers.

It's almost unimaginable, the effrontery with which this individual, so recently discredited by a "serious collapse" of far greater significance which they personally helped to bring about eleven years ago, speaks to the "necessity" of deal-making which serves to increase inherited wealth and privilege in the same breath as he effuses about the "middle class."

Does he really believe that serious people will fail to notice that he continues his jihad against New Deal policies that place reasonable restraints on the activities of the financier class ("We need non-traditional approaches.") at the same time as he venerates the "institutions" that he empowered to catastrophically fail the country?

His definition of American greatness as the product of its virtuous institutions --not its people-- pretty much says it all:

"our strength must come from establishing uniqueness, establishing that which is difficult to replicate, that which comes from more collective action.

Any idea or machine or even individual capacity can be transplanted. Far harder to transplant, imitate, or emulate are our great institutions – the national laboratories and the national parks and the national highway system, great universities and great cities and great technology clusters, a diverse culture, deep capital markets, and a tremendous ethic.

To Summers, the rabid, unrepentant ideologue, America's elite institutions are not the cause of its decline, but it's very identity as America!

Summers is America, in other words!

People are interchangeable, individuals (without great wealth) may be transplanted, but the combination of the force of the giant federal state, the expertise of "great universities" and the well-honed interests of "deep capital markets," on the other hand --that's what makes America uniquely wonderful in the world...at least according to Larry Summers' warped ideology.

No wonder he and his people think HAMP is a crashing success!

Do you actually take this rot seriously, Michael Scherer?

Can you not see this for what it is: a rigid, fanatical orthodoxy that sees both New Deal liberalism and market fundamentalism as its implacable foes, and is literally willing to sink the country rather than admit its obvious, profound failures?

"I believe that at this point the risks of deflation or stagnation in the United States exceed the risks of uncontrolled growth or high inflation. But unless we change our course, we are at risk of a profound demoralization of government.

That's why Bowles-Simpson so important.

, after proclamation

"be clear that compromises that were necessary with a weak economy in 2010 should be inconceivable as recovery accelerates in 2012."

, after proclamation

"I am not one who sees financial collapse on the imminent horizon. "

What kind of pathology allows an individual with a record of failure as great as Summers to make those kind of claims with no apparent shame?

Of course Larry Summers is not the one who sees financial collapse on any horizon! He didn't see the last financial collapse when it was staring him in the face! When has he ever successfully predicted anything?

It's more of the same high-theoretical garbage that put us in this ditch, isn't that clear?

Can't you see the ideology there, Michael Scherer?

Do you honestly believe that Larry Summers is some font of wisdom, simply because he's not a movement conservative, and he's not a movement liberal, and he says things that people at cocktail parties in your part of town all agree that Serious people should believe?

Summers is reiterating the same things that the Progressive Policy Institute has been saying for over fifteen years!

At some point, don't you think that your ethic as a journalist compels you to take a closer look at how what was prescribed decades ago is now being proclaimed again as the magical, theoretical cure-all for everything, Michael Scherer?

It doesn't disturb you that Summers' whole speech is taken right out of Progressive Policy Institute's papers from 1995 --even the bit about "orthodoxy?"

Will it never occur to you that the reason Fareed Zakaria and this guy sound exactly the same is not necessarily because they possess Merlin-like expertise and erudition about everything, but because they believe the same things?

And, if they believe the same things, what is the name of their preferred ideology? What is not rightist, but not leftist, either? What philosophy is chiefly concerned with the demoralization of big government and the empowerment of our "excellence" in the form of our "unique" financial system? What advocates "collective action" and Keynesian solutions, but worships elite institutions, venerates wealthy individuals, and finds "strength" in our "deep capital markets?"

What is that ideology called, Michael Scherer? What's its name?

Larry Summers is saying things that sound right to you and people like you, Michael Scherer, and for that, you are willing to grant him all sorts of objectively undeserved credibility...just like us rubes the voters out here do with our favorite huckster politicians.

Can you at least consider that possibility, Michael Scherer?