Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A fascinating Furman narrative developing

Earlier today Kate sent me this post by James Pethokoukis on Jason Furman's likely new CEA position. Lots of people not on the left have picked it up since then, marveling at Furman's non-hate of Wal-Mart and free trade as well as the prospect of a "Clinton Democrat" in the White House.

I've followed Furman for years now, I think it's an awesome pick, and of course I like a lot of the things about him that Pethokoukis has remarked on - but I find this whole narrative developing around Furman really odd.

Do people honestly think that Christina Romer or Alan Krueger disagree with him at all on these issues? Maybe someone will dig up some evidence and I'll have egg on my face, but I would be truly shocked if they did. There's nothing particularly notable about Furman on any of these issues. He's an economist - of course he thinks all those things. Someone like Paul Krugman is probably too outspokenly liberal to be CEA chair of this president (maybe another president that conservatives haven't done quite as good a job branding as a liberal), and he agrees with Furman on this stuff.

So why is everyone so excited about this?

I think it's just a lesson in the way narratives get momentum and develop. Pethokoukis reported the facts on Furman plus some analysis that offered an appealing narrative to people and it took off.

One of the stories that is making the rounds is an exchange between Furman and Barbara Ehrenreich on these sorts of issues.

I think a lot of people walk around with it in their heads that the White House, the Democratic Party, or really anyone that doesn't self-identify as a conservative or libertarian is more or less the equivalent of Barbara Ehrenreich. It's simply not true. She probably does some good in the world - brings attention to important issues, etc. But she's a socialist for crying out loud.

It seems to me to be a very low bar to be excited that a presumptive CEA chair disagrees with an avowed socialist!


  1. I would have preferred it if he had picked Joseph Stiglitz or Nouriel Roubini as head of the CEA, but I can work with Jason Furman.

    That stated, I wonder who Mr. Obama will pick to be the next Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System of the United States of America.

    I'm partial to George Akerlof's wife and the Federal Reserve's current Number 2, Janet Yellen. I feel that having a woman as the head of the monetary authority of an influential nation would be good fresh air for all parties, and it would be even more interesting to observe than having another man in the role.

  2. "But she's a socialist for crying out loud"

    In any developed country other than the US, she would probably be seen as solidly middle of the road.


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