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Friday, March 5, 2021

A roundtable on economic policy

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In much of the media coverage of Sen. Biden this week, he’s being compared to President Obama for the words he used in that New York Times op-ed. One of the “boots on the ground” said to be rattling around the presidential bubble: the chief executive’s chief economic advisor, Larry Summers.

As if it were 1992 — only with more Twitter exposure! — the Boehner curse has been cast. In his attention-grabbing comments last week, the Republican speaker of the House said that Joe Biden had left the country “worse off than before he took office” (which, after this week, he’s probably getting a lot used to hearing). A Speaker of the House offering himself up as some kind of economic adviser to a senator accused of having created a wealth disparity the likes of which “the world has never seen before.”

Would such comments ever be uttered or aired in the pre-social media age? Maybe the events of the past week demonstrate that nothing was achieved by 2011.

Traditionally, economic policymaking has been a matter of copious consultation among competing party factions, experts and economic advisers. But the rise of political networks that connect party members, advisers and public figures, followed by the proliferation of modern mass media, makes it harder to do so. The Biden op-ed ran under the auspices of a Washington group, America Coming Together, that Republicans have shown they will go to great lengths to attack (you could argue that they’re playing the same game as Mr. Biden). But a far greater gulf of distance exists between the extreme wings of the presidential campaigns — Donald Trump and Ted Cruz for the Republicans, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton for the Democrats — and their “economic advisers” in television studios, fancy dinners and campaign headquarters.

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