Monday, September 10, 2012

Niall Ferguson's Newsweek cover story

I know, I know, this is so yesterday. For most bloggers, a big part of what they do is to strive to be one of the first to comment on any buzzing news story, doing so fast and furiously. God bless them. But given I don't blog professionally, I frequently don't have time to comment on-the-spot regarding developing Big Story A or B. Instead I usually read what others have written, then read the actual source item(s), jotting down my own thoughts on the subject and finally look to post something up here when I get the chance, usually during the weekend.

And here I am. I did read Ferguson's piece and needless to say, I've also read through the many criticisms (and trust me, there were many more than just Krugman's). I felt all of the criticisms were more than fair, but I'm a liberal and thus biased, right?

On to Ferguson's piece, "Why Obama Must Go." My comments:

  • He mentions the stock market is up 74% since Inauguration Day 2009. If this kind of market gain was achieved by a Republican president -- during a tumultuous time when we were in the throes of what looked like a global financial meltdown, we'd never hear the end of it. Republicans would be doing non-stop victory laps and Fox News would be reminding us of this impressive advance 24/7. I mean after all, if there's one thing in this country which reflects the free market system in all its unfettered glory it's the stock market, and a 70+% rise is not too shabby for a Kenyan socialist. Especially when you compare it against GW/Cheney's eight year stock market return of near minus 40% (1/31/01 - 1/31/09). But this shouldn't be too surprising since it's documented fact that the stock market fares much better under Democrat presidents than Republican.

  • Ferguson cites that the total number of private sector jobs is still below the January 2008 peak. Yes, as a baseline to judge Obama, Ferguson picks the month in the year before everything goes to hell. With this lame bit of chicanery, it's clear right from the get go that you're not going to get an objective, fair critique.

  • Ferguson cites economic growth estimates from Obama's 2010 budget, faulting him for falling short of these figures. This is one of many examples where Ferguson uses promises made by Obama in his early days as proof of abject failure a mere 2-3 years later. Give me a break. For one, every new president lays out fairly optimistic goals and targets for the future, more or less hopes and dreams to shoot for. In this case, Obama was naively guilty of assuming the GOP would play ball as the Dems did with Reagan to help him and the country get out of a recession. Obama belatedly learned that this demented version of the GOP was unwilling to compromise and more than willing to sacrifice the welfare of the nation to achieve partisan gains. Of course, no mention of that by the Harvard scholar.

  • Ferguson writes, "Under this president's policies, the debt is on course to approach 200 percent of GDP in 2037." Another case of taking a period of time within the worst possible worlds and stretching it out for decades to purposefully portray a near-hysterically horrible picture. Even if the math were technically true, how can anyone take this form of journalism seriously? Ferguson takes figures from the worst recession since the Great Depression, all during a time of fierce opposition and stonewalling from the GOP, and he simply extrapolates out for the next 25 years, assuming the last three years will continue to be the case for the next 2+ decades. Really? This is deemed plausible? This is what passes for Harvard-caliber scholarship?? It's just embarrassing.

  • Ferguson shows a chart of China's GDP expected to surpass that of the U.S. by 2017. This is proof positive Ferguson is intent on providing a disingenuous critique on Obama. I think I've seen this exact chart reproduced repeatedly over the GW/Cheney years and frankly what it reflects has less to do with anything any president can control or influence, whether it be GW or Obama. Instead it lays out the reality of putting a very mature economy with issues up against a fast-growing economy with 1 billion people and minimal regulations (allowing rampant pollution, labor abuses, etc.). It's an unfair comparison and is certainly not something you can hang on one president, but that doesn't stop Ferguson from using the chart to level a cheap shot, further undermining any hope of his views to be taken seriously.

  • He writes, "Polls consistently showed that only a minority of the public liked the ACA, and it was the main reason why Republicans regained control of the House in 2010." Is this true? What polls showed this? The ones I referenced in my post explaining how these polls were deceptive and misleading? And Ferguson knows for a fact that the ACA is why the GOP regained control of the House in 2010? As opposed to the well-known trend that after a new president is voted in, the opposing party does well come election time two years later?? We're talking Poly Sci 101.

  • Then of course comes his whopper when he writes, "the ACA will have a net cost of close to $1.2 trillion," with Ferguson not bothering to mention the CBO scores the ACA as lowering the deficit by over $100 billion in the next ten years. What Ferguson is doing here is text-book deception, parsing words and carefully excluding certain inconvenient truths to fit his narrative. And based on Ferguson's rebuttals to his many attacks, he knew what he was doing. Shame on Tina Brown.

  • "The fiscal train wreck has already initiated a process of steep cuts in the defense budget." Never mind that Defense Secretary Robert Gates had already recommended steep cuts to the military! But what does Republican Gates know, let's blame Obama.

  • I think this part of the piece is my favorite. Ferguson writes, "I know, like, and admire Paul Ryan.... He is one of only a handful of politicians in Washington who is truly sincere about addressing this country's fiscal crisis." Just priceless. Leave aside that Ryan is anything but a deficit hawk. But truly sincere? Does Niall still believe this after hearing Ryan's speech at the RNC convention, a speech that was universally panned for its record-breaking number of lies and gross distortions? We already knew Ryan was as willing as Romney to say anything to get elected, but was anyone prepared for Ryan's convention spectacle, an exercise of unabashed, shameless lying that may never be surpassed. It was breathtaking. And yet Ryan is Ferguson's idea of "truly sincere" -- still have faith in what Ferguson has to say about anything??
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