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Because the Democrats "Believe in" Government:

During the Bush years, we constantly heard the refrain, pushed especially by Paul Krugman, that the government was doing incompetent and corrupt things because conservative Republicans "don't believe in" government. Put the government in the hands of true-believing liberal Democrats, and incompetence and corruption will virtually disappear.

This always struck me as foolish, in part because the problems with government competence and integrity are structural, not individual, and in part because it required one to believe Krugman's fantasy that the Republican elite during the Bush years was dominated by wild-eyed libertarians intent on drowning the government in a bathtub, or something like that.

Anyway, here's the latest example of competence an incorruptibility from our liberal Democrat elites:

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that four New Jersey congressmen and its own former commissioner unduly influenced the process that led to its decision last year to approve a patch for injured knees, an approval it is now revisiting.

The agency's scientific reviewers repeatedly and unanimously over many years decided that the device, known as Menaflex and manufactured by ReGen Biologics Inc., was unsafe because the device often failed, forcing patients to get another operation.

But after receiving what an F.D.A. report described as "extreme," "unusual" and persistent pressure from four Democrats from New Jersey — Senators Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg and Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. and Steven R. Rothman — agency managers overruled the scientists and approved the device for sale in December.

All four legislators made their inquiries within a few months of receiving significant campaign contributions from ReGen, which is based in New Jersey, but all said they had acted appropriately and were not influenced by the money.

UPDATE: It's amusing to get accused of anti-Democrat "partisanship" in the comments for a post whose theme is that when given power the Democrats are just as corrupt and incompetent as the Republicans.

ruuffles (mail) (www):

Anyway, here's the latest example of competence an incorruptibility from our liberal Democratic elites:

It's hard to take someone seriously when he insists on using that ridiculous truncation.
9.25.2009 10:02am
luci:
That story couldn't possibly be true! (And if its true, it's probably just that the democrats just cared too darn much for people with knee injuries and made a mistake out of their overabundance of compassion.)
9.25.2009 10:03am
Snaphappy:
FDA was an agency of a Republican administration last year, n'est ce pas?
9.25.2009 10:06am
Recovering Law Grad:
Straw man alert.
9.25.2009 10:06am
Recovering Law Grad:
ruufles -

Excellent point. A naked example of Bernstein's partisanship.
9.25.2009 10:07am
ricky:
Everyone calls them "the Democrats". Obama himself would tell you that he's "a Democrat". It's not like he's subbing in some nasty word to defame them.

PS: "Democratic" is not what I would call a cabal that takes advantage of its narrow majority to force through legislation without seeking any input or support from the rest of the delegates. Then again, I'm a ReThugliKKKan so what do I know?
9.25.2009 10:15am
sputnik (mail):
Put the government in the hands of true-believing liberal Democrats, and incompetence and corruption will virtually disappear.
Do you have a quote from Krugman to proof that assertion?
9.25.2009 10:16am
Brian Garst (www):
Democrat is the appropriate identifier for members of the Democratic Party.

You'll have to find something else to nitpick.
9.25.2009 10:17am
David M. Nieporent (www):
It's hard to take someone seriously when he insists on using that ridiculous truncation.
Truncation? They're Democrats, aren't they? He didn't say "Democrat Party."
9.25.2009 10:17am
BillyG (mail):
"agency managers overruled the scientists and approved the device for sale in December."

I am not sure how this could discredit Krugman's claims, since, as I recall, Obama wasn't inaugurated until January.

Bernstein's posts are often thought provoking when he sticks to legal issues (and, in fact, I think he is probably right on his larger point in this post), but I am becoming less and less able to wade through his partisan hackery.
9.25.2009 10:19am
xx:
Could you post to an article by Krugman that takes this position, or something similar?
9.25.2009 10:20am
DavidBernstein (mail):
So Sen. Kennedy was a liberal Democratic? I can see the case for using "liberal Democratic elites" but "liberal Democrat elites" is at least as logical. It depends whether you read it, as I intended as "liberal Democrat elites, or as you are reading it, as "liberal Democrat elites."

FDA was an agency of a Republican administration last year, n'est ce pas?
In December, the FDA was well aware that the Dems had taken over all three branches of government, and that there would be hell to pay if they crossed Lautenberg et al.
9.25.2009 10:20am
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Libertarian Party message:

Vote against corruption. Vote Libertarian. We're not corrupt (because we don't have any power and won't sell out, so we don't get the big donations).

As long as money can influence the outcomes of elections it will, and it will buy the influence that power brings. Unless or until people start voting for the candidates who don't receive much money at all, the situation won't change.
9.25.2009 10:21am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
So you're ok with the conduct by the 4 Democrats in Congress who exerted all that pressure to benefit their campaign contributer, ruuffles? Or does your immediate resort to an irrelevant ad hominem attack indicate that you have no quarrel with the substance of the report, you're just pissed off at the messenger informing you about their corruption?
9.25.2009 10:22am
TNeloms:

sputnik:

Put the government in the hands of true-believing liberal Democrats, and incompetence and corruption will virtually disappear.
Do you have a quote from Krugman to proof that assertion?


Here is the Krugman quote from the previous (linked to) Bernstein post:


"What we really need is a government that works, because it's run by people who understand that sometimes government is the solution, after all. And that seems to be something undreamed of in either Mr. Bush's or Mr. McCain's philosophy."


I don't see how this FDA example counters the assertion that "sometimes government is the solution" or that a government run by people who believe this will work better.
9.25.2009 10:22am
DavidBernstein (mail):
This is for all the readers who are too lazy to click through two links to a Krugman piece from last Fall:
FEMA's degradation, from one of the government's most admired agencies to a laughingstock, wasn't an isolated event; it was the result of the G.O.P.'s underlying philosophy. Simply put, when the government is run by a political party committed to the belief that government is always the problem, never the solution, that belief tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Key priorities are neglected; key functions are privatized; and key people, the competent public servants who make government work, either leave or are driven out.
I think that amply qualifies as Krugman saying "the government was doing incompetent and corrupt things because conservative Republicans 'don't believe in' government." The other idea I attributed directly to Krugman, that the Republicans during the Bush era were libertarians, is amply supported by this and other Krugman columns.
On the issue of whether the government would function much better under the Democrats, that's the general thrust of K's relevant pieces, including again the one you can read if you click two links: "What we really need is a government that works, because it's run by people who understand that sometimes government is the solution, after all. And that seems to be something undreamed of in either Mr. Bush's or Mr. McCain's philosophy."
9.25.2009 10:27am
sputnik (mail):
TNeloms.
Are you truly claiming that the Krugman quote
"What we really need is a government that works, because it's run by people who understand that sometimes government is the solution, after all."
is equal to that interpretation?

Put the government in the hands of true-believing liberal Democrats, and incompetence and corruption will virtually disappear.

ARe you serious?

Also if you read the whole article from Krugman that quote was extracted he was not talking about government replacing all economic activities, but a certain vast in their range projects-like for example the health care insurance
9.25.2009 10:30am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Put the government in the hands of true-believing liberal Democrats, and incompetence and corruption will virtually disappear.
I thought this was obvious hyperbole, but I guess some humorless readers really need to be hit over the head with it.
9.25.2009 10:33am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Beneath the hyperbole, of course, is the silly point Krugman made there and elsewhere: that government would function much better under the Democrats and liberals because the Democrats and liberals believe in government, whereas the Bushies hated government.
9.25.2009 10:35am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Note to Guest012, whose comment I just deleted: we run a respectable blog here. Take your nonsense to www.xoxohth.com.
9.25.2009 10:37am
LN (mail):
How is a Congressperson being swayed by campaign contributions an example of "selling out"? Isn't that just listening to your constituents? ReGen wasn't "buying off" the politicians, it was making a political speech.

Am I supposed to believe that there is such a thing as the "public interest" and that "big money" corrupts the defenders of the public interest? What a naive "omg corporations are EVIIIL" perspective.
9.25.2009 10:39am
alkali (mail):
Hyperbolic characterizations aside, I'm not sure there's all that much to see here.

1. Four New Jersey congressmen received campaign contributions totaling $26,000 from executives of a publicly-traded company headquartered in New Jersey. I am not particularly shocked by that number. (If you are shocked by that number, and you also think that campaign finance laws should generally be abolished, you may want to think about whether those are really consistent positions.)

2. When the company had trouble getting one of their devices through FDA approval, it called the congressmen, and the congressmen called the FDA asking about it. Again, not particularly shocking. Congressmen do call federal agencies on behalf of their constituents.

3. FDA "agency managers agency managers overruled the scientists and approved the device." Here, "agency managers" apparetnly chiefly refers to Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, a longtime Bush family friend and urologist whom President Bush appointed to head the FDA -- and who, it should be noted, says that he acted appropriately. Indeed, though I am never reluctant to slag a Bush appointee, I wonder if the quoted characterization is really fair. I have only skimmed the report, which is heavy on FDA inside baseball, but there's nothing in it that suggests to me that Dr. von Eschenbach went wildly over the line, or that he was living in mortal fear of a couple of Democratic congressmen.

So what is the takeaway here? We should abolish the FDA? Congressmen should not take contributions from or make calls on behalf of constitutents? Bush family friends are not to be trusted as managers of federal agencies? You tell me.
9.25.2009 10:41am
PersonFromPorlock:
Still, the inspirers of this particular bit of corruption were Democrats and it seems unlikely they'll be less effective with a Democratic administration in charge. So the idea that

"Put the government in the hands of true-believing liberal Democrats, and incompetence and corruption will virtually disappear"

is disproved, if anyone actually proposed it.

My own tendency is to presume corruption as the explanation for any government act: let the government prove virtue, if it wants to be well thought of. An unfair requirement, I know, and impossible to meet, but very, very practical.
9.25.2009 10:42am
LN (mail):

that government would function much better under the Democrats and liberals because the Democrats and liberals believe in government, whereas the Bushies hated government.


How is this a silly claim? If you're the shareholder of a company, do you want your CEO to be someone who believes that the company can accomplish, or do you want your CEO to disparage the company whenever possible? It's not as if Bush cut the size of the federal government or reduced the federal government's powers.

What's silly is claiming that Krugman said that once Democrats were in power, the world would become magic and rainbows and ponies.
9.25.2009 10:47am
JPG:
Provided the latest debates within the Democrat Party on delicate issues (the healthcare debate, for one), one could hardly conclude Democrats are all believers in Big Government. We should equally recall not all Republicans are, say, neocons. Should I stress how much DB is contributing to the partisanship caricature of American politics?
9.25.2009 10:47am
DavidBernstein (mail):
When the company had trouble getting one of their devices through FDA approval, it called the congressmen, and the congressmen called the FDA asking about it.
The report says that "extreme" and "unusual" pressure was put on the FDA. Doesn't sound like the typical, "hey, my constituent called me and I'm following up" call.
9.25.2009 10:49am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
LN, there's nothing in the world wrong with corporations giving political contributions. It's very wrong for the Congressman to exert special influence on behalf of a particular contributor. I'm not aware of any opponent of the censorship which is campaign finance "reform" who says any different.

To answer alkali's question, the "takeaway" is that Congressmen should not "pressure" government employees because they have received campaign contributions. Not all corporate campaign contributions are disguised bribery, you see, and I don't think we should deprive some people of their First Amendment rights simply because some companies and individuals, and some Congressmen, are corrupt. I'd rather target the ACTUAL corruption (which seems to have been demonstrated here, though obviously we need more facts).

The other takeaway is that bureaucrats and political appointees should be stronger in standing up to political pressure. Undoubtedly, here, the Congressmen merely kept asking very loaded questions "why is this taking so long to review? Can you PROVE that these knee implants will kill people," etc., and the bureaucrats, worn out from dealing with all that, and worried about the agency's funding next time they went to the Congressman's committee, caved to the pressure. I say shame on them, as I say shame on the Congressmen. Of course, my "shame on them" is tempered by my knowledge of just how easy it is for members of Congress to screw around with an agency with little trace.
9.25.2009 10:55am
Malvolio:
So what is the takeaway here? We should abolish the FDA? Congressmen should not take contributions from or make calls on behalf of constitutents? Bush family friends are not to be trusted as managers of federal agencies? You tell me.
Can't it be all of the above?

Seriously, would any other outcome be less objectionable than what actually occurred? Congressmen were responding to concerns from their constituents (there's a strong implication that they wouldn't have been as responsible to non-donors, but in an ideal world, they would have acted just as they did more often than they do now). Agency managers managed their agencies.

Of course, in this case, the constituents, Congressmen, and managers were wrong, and the scientists were right. I'm sure I could scout around and find a case where the technicians inside an agency were wrong and their managers and the legislature either overruled them or failed to do so.

The buried (and false) premise is that some amount of "tuning up" would fix the government. The government is no more able to make magically accurate decisions than anyone else and no amount of "believing in government" or "campaign finance reform" is going to change that.
9.25.2009 10:55am
ShelbyC:

How is this a silly claim? If you're the shareholder of a company, do you want your CEO to be someone who believes that the company can accomplish, or do you want your CEO to disparage the company whenever possible? It's not as if Bush cut the size of the federal government or reduced the federal government's powers.


It's a silly claim because there's no evidence that the "Bushies hated government". Unlike the CEO in your example, the Bushies never disparaged government. Like you say, it's not as if they reduced the size of govt or it's powers.
9.25.2009 10:57am
DavidBernstein (mail):
do you want your CEO to disparage the company whenever possible
I'd love to see your evidence that George W. Bush "disparaged" the federal government "whenever possible." Or, for that matter, any evidence that that he thought that federal government involvement in health care (Medicare Part D), education (No Child Left Behind), moral education (abstinence education), stopping AIDS in Africa, or just about anything else was a bad idea, or that he acted on such views? Or that the Republican Congress did likewise during the Bush years?
9.25.2009 10:58am
Mark Buehner (mail):
I will say there is a demonstrable habit of both parties to howl about the expansive powers of the executive (especially) while the other party is in power, and the proceed to expand them further still (often the IDENTICAL programs) when their party gains the office.

This is a festering example of the unhealthy permanent political class that has entrenched itself in Washington. Party comes second, power comes first. Country comes somewhere after that.
9.25.2009 11:00am
alkali (mail):
The report says that "extreme" and "unusual" pressure was put on the FDA. Doesn't sound like the typical, "hey, my constituent called me and I'm following up" call.

The report says (p. 8):
Although inquiries from members of Congress about FDA's handling of a constituent's product application are not unusual, interviewees described the Congressional involvement in the ReGen matter as highly unusual not only in the members' persistence but also in members' interest in specific, substantive aspects of the device's review. The Director of FDA's Office of Legislation described the pressure from the Hill as the most extreme he had seen and the agency's acquiescence to the Company's demands for access to the Commissioner and other officials in the Commissioner's office as unprecedented in his experience.
Again, I am not sure what the takeaway is here, other than that this case represented more Congressional pressure than usual. If there was something qualitatively "extreme" or "unusual" about the calls -- e.g., an improper threat -- presumably the report would have mentioned it.
9.25.2009 11:01am
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
What true believing partisans usually overlook is that winning an election doesn't allow them to load the bureaucracy with only other true believers. Civil service rules prevent that. They have to hire more or less whoever passes the civil service exams, in order of application, and that does not only not bring in their fellow true believers, but the queues are loaded with agents of special interests who better know how to play the staffing game.

I saw that happen with the environmental movement. Once they got in power they discovered to their horror that most of the bureaucrats they were forced to hire were actually reporting to the objects of their regulatory efforts.
9.25.2009 11:03am
TNeloms:

sputnik:

TNeloms.
Are you truly claiming that the Krugman quote
"What we really need is a government that works, because it's run by people who understand that sometimes government is the solution, after all."
is equal to that interpretation?


Of course not. I agree with you. That's why I also said:


I don't see how this FDA example counters the assertion that "sometimes government is the solution" or that a government run by people who believe this will work better.


I was following up on your post, not arguing against it :).
9.25.2009 11:08am
Ben P:

It's hard to take someone seriously when he insists on using that ridiculous truncation.


Everyone already seems to have picked this apart, but I think this is the proper usage in this case.

Saying the "Democrat party" as opposed to the "Democratic party" is presumably the truncation you're referring to, but referring to an individual person as a "democrat" or a "liberal democrat" flows much more smoothly than saying they are a "member of the democratic party" and saying a person is a "democratic" doesn't make any sense.
9.25.2009 11:09am
yankee (mail):
During the Bush years, we constantly heard the refrain, pushed especially by Paul Krugman, that the government was doing incompetent and corrupt things because conservative Republicans "don't believe in" government. Put the government in the hands of true-believing liberal Democrats, and incompetence and corruption will virtually disappear.

I heard this claim about incompetence a lot, but I never once heard it about corruption. Nor does the Krugman column you linked to say anything about it.

Corruption and incompetence are different things!
9.25.2009 11:10am
NoPublic:
I'm shocked! Shocked I say! etc.

The real question here is why is anyone upset that this company exercised its First Amendment rights?

Oh, I see. "Undue and unusual pressure" or some such. Well, I'm sure that's never happened before. And it is being reported, not swept under the rug or rewarded.

So, basically, this boils down to a "neener, neener, they do it too" post. Is there anyone who realistically thought otherwise?

When hiring a chef for your steakhouse do you hire a Vegan who dislikes people who eat meat or someone who enjoys a good ribeye? That's the essence of Krugman's point.

In reality, the R's love big government every bit as much as or more than the D's. They just like its largesse going to different folks.
9.25.2009 11:17am
Uh_Clem (mail):
Put the government in the hands of true-believing liberal Democrats, and incompetence and corruption will virtually disappear.

Wow. You really knocked the crap out of that strawman. I mean, just look at the place - there's straw all over everything now. Hope you're happy.
9.25.2009 11:18am
Waste (mail):
BillyG,

Though President Obama wasn't inaugriated until January, the election was in November. So the nature of the coming administration was known. Also even in Dec '08 the Democrats controlled the House and Senate. And they control the purse strings.
9.25.2009 11:21am
NoPublic:

Wow. You really knocked the crap out of that strawman. I mean, just look at the place - there's straw all over everything now. Hope you're happy.


Which is no doubt why we so frequently see no allowance for comments from certain authors here...
9.25.2009 11:21am
LN (mail):
Bernstein is awfully interested in partisan politics for someone who sees no fundamental difference between the parties.
9.25.2009 11:25am
LN (mail):

Though President Obama wasn't inaugriated until January, the election was in November. So the nature of the coming administration was known. Also even in Dec '08 the Democrats controlled the House and Senate. And they control the purse strings.


So what's your theory on why the FDA made this announcement Thursday? Is it that they're excited by the incoming Palin administration?
9.25.2009 11:31am
Joe The Plumber (mail):
So you're ok with the conduct by the 4 Democrats in Congress who exerted all that pressure to benefit their campaign contributer, ruuffles? Or does your immediate resort to an irrelevant ad hominem attack indicate that

Why would ruffles bother answering? He's a hypocrite of the worst type...
9.25.2009 11:33am
santa monica (mail) (www):
DB,
With all due respect, I don't get the point of your Update. I think you get accused of partisanship because--in the eyes of many many readers--you come across as a partisan hack. (Whether this conclusion is completely true or completely false is irrelevant, in terms of how it influences people.) Since these people's opinion of you is that you are partisan and biased, I don't think is surprising or amusing that you are accused of bias in this particular post. My guess is that you will get this accusation in any post of yours that goes after Democrats/Liberals/Progressives.

As to the substance of your OP: I think you are overstating Krugman, either in error, or as part of erecting a strawman. I think that most people who voted for Obama are not the least surprised to find bad acts by politicians in power. (We are not happy about it when it occurs, but that's not the same as being surprised that it happens.)

JPG's last point is one that many VC readers share, and may account for part of the level of vitriol DB gets as a response to his posts. (The fact that DB chooses not to allow comments in many of his posts also may be a factor, as I am guessing that some of his more, um, motivated opponents may be 'storing-up' some of their ill-will.) :-)
9.25.2009 11:34am
santa monica (mail) (www):
DB,
With all due respect, I don't get the point of your Update. I think you get accused of partisanship because--in the eyes of many many readers--you come across as a partisan hack. (Whether this conclusion is completely true or completely false is irrelevant, in terms of how it influences people.) Since these people's opinion of you is that you are partisan and biased, I don't think is surprising or amusing that you are accused of bias in this particular post. My guess is that you will get this accusation in any post of yours that goes after Democrats/Liberals/Progressives.

As to the substance of your OP: I think you are overstating Krugman, either in error, or as part of erecting a strawman. I think that most people who voted for Obama are not the least surprised to find bad acts by politicians in power. (We are not happy about it when it occurs, but that's not the same as being surprised that it happens.)

JPG's last point is one that many VC readers share, and may account for part of the level of vitriol DB gets as a response to his posts. (The fact that DB chooses not to allow comments in many of his posts also may be a factor, as I am guessing that some of his more, um, motivated opponents may be 'storing-up' some of their ill-will.) :-)
9.25.2009 11:34am
ASlyJD (mail):
Since campaign finance has been brought up, I remain at a loss as to how giving money to a campaign is free speech. Yes, I understand that money buy ads that say things about the candidate, but it also buys haircuts, outfits, and travel arrangements.

If some legislature made it illegal to give more than $2000 a year to, say, a theatre group, would that be a infringement of free speech? If the fact that "money talks" constitutes free speech, isn't any restriction on what most of us would call commerce a free speech violation?

Now, I'm not a fan of campaign finance rules, but free speech seems to be a rather questionable lever to overturn it.
9.25.2009 11:36am
byomtov (mail):
I'd love to see your evidence that George W. Bush "disparaged" the federal government "whenever possible."

Oh come on, David. Anti-government rhetoric is a staple of Republican politics. Remember Reagan? Krugman's claim - that Republicans simply don't think the government can do anything right - is wholly accurate.

So you've found a situation that disproves a claim never made - that Democrats would be corruption-free. Big deal. That certainly doesn't equate to "Democrats are just as bad as Republicans."
9.25.2009 11:44am
Voice of the terrier (mail):
Are you serious? All you show is that there are Democratic politicians who will work to serve their big donors, and I don't think anyone ever denied that.

But to blame Democrats for being malignant bureaucrats because they brought to light an example of Republican mismanagement and bowing to undue outside influence, well, you have a pretty idiosyncratic view of things!
9.25.2009 11:46am
RichW (mail):
DB:

I agree with you about Krugman's assertion but problem as I see it is that they forgot that they, the Democrats, do not have anyone more competent than the Republicans. So you just trade one set of incompetents for another.
9.25.2009 11:48am
Widmerpool:
My question for the day: Is ruufles paid a bonus for each first post he is able to make? Perhaps this is part of his job title at the administration: "Volokh Monitor and First-Alert Responder." I bet he get double-brownie points for being the first to carp on Bernstein's posts.
9.25.2009 11:48am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
When we see incompetence and corruption in the military and the police, what would you have us take away?

How about incompetence and corruption in the private sector?

It's hard to see the point as something other than anti-Democratic snark, when it doesn't engage these questions as well.
9.25.2009 11:49am
egd:
While I think you've done a good take-down of Krugman's anti-Bush rhetoric, did he really need it? Can anyone argue with a straight face that Krugman was anything but angry with the Bush administration for having the temerity to be Republicans?

Really, this episode points out another fundamental flaw with Campaign Finance Reform. These corporations (presumably) followed all of the Campaign Finance laws. They disclosed their contribution, gave no more than the maximum, and still managed to buy undue congressional influence.

Maybe instead of worrying about campaign donors, we should worry about corrupt politicians. It seems to me that it's much better to toss a few career criminals politicians in prison than to infringe on First Amendment rights of the rest of the populace.
9.25.2009 11:51am
rrr:

So Sen. Kennedy was a liberal Democratic? I can see the case for using "liberal Democratic elites" but "liberal Democrat elites" is at least as logical. It depends whether you read it, as I intended as "liberal Democrat elites, or as you are reading it, as "liberal Democrat elites."



Everyone already seems to have picked this apart, but I think this is the proper usage in this case.


No, I don't think so. The difference is that "Democrat" is a noun while "Democratic" is an adjective. Whether you think of it as "liberal Democrat elite" or "liberal Democrat elite" is irrelevant -- either way "Democrat" is an adjective modifying "elite", and so should be "Democratic". Think of the terms "Jew" and "Jewish", which are comparable. Would you actually write "liberal Jew elite"?
9.25.2009 11:51am
David M. Nieporent (www):
How is this a silly claim? If you're the shareholder of a company, do you want your CEO to be someone who believes that the company can accomplish, or do you want your CEO to disparage the company whenever possible?
If the company can't accomplish something, I want my CEO to be someone who believes that the company can't accomplish it.
9.25.2009 11:51am
ShelbyC:

Anti-government rhetoric is a staple of Republican politics. Remember Reagan? Krugman's claim - that Republicans simply don't think the government can do anything right - is wholly accurate.


I remember Bush saying that he felt that the govt should do a few things, and do them well. Debate over the proper size and scope of govt is not "Anti-government rhetoric" any more than the left saying that the govt should stay out of certain personal decisions is anti-government rhetoric.
9.25.2009 11:54am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I think you get accused of partisanship because--in the eyes of many many readers--you come across as a partisan hack.


I will just say that when I attack Republicans, Republican readers rarely accuse me of a being a pro-Democrat hack, they rightly accuse me of wild-eye libertarianism. When I criticize Democrats--even on the grounds that they are just as bad as Republicans!--though, the usual suspects come out and claim that I'm a Republican hack. That says a lot more about the usual suspects than about me, but you'd think they'd save their ire for a post where the criticism at least seems plausible. To be accused of partisanship for pointing out that the Democrats act just as badly as the Republicans, which means that the accuser believes that the Democrats are a lot better than the Republicans, is about as good a pot-kettle example as I can think of.
9.25.2009 11:57am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I'd love to see your evidence that George W. Bush "disparaged" the federal government "whenever possible."

Oh come on, David. Anti-government rhetoric is a staple of Republican politics.
I'd love to see your evidence that George W. Bush "disparaged" the federal government "whenever possible."
Remember Reagan?
Yes. Is Reagan alive? Is Reagan Bush? Is he relevant to the actual question asked, as opposed to the one you wish were asked?
Krugman's claim - that Republicans simply don't think the government can do anything right - is wholly accurate.
I'd love to see your evidence that George W. Bush "disparaged" the federal government "whenever possible."
9.25.2009 12:00pm
Strict:
Bush's FDA made a decision contrary to good science.

Must be because of Democrats.

The facts don't support your generalized conclusion that Democrats are just as incompetent and corrupt as Republicans. You might as well have arrived at these conclusions: "This shows Roman Catholic politicians (Pallone and Menendez) are just as corrupt as Jewish politicians (Rothman and Lautenberg)." Or "This shows New Jersey politicians put the interests of their constituents above the interests of product consumers." Or "This shows the Bush FDA was unusual susceptible to Congressional pressure." Or "This shows the Bush FDA was pro-manufacturer." Or whatever.
9.25.2009 12:11pm
Nuke Laloosh:
At what point did the Bush administration support less government? Government got bigger under Bush.

Krugman is correct in his assertion that a government run by people that are opposed to it, seems likely to encourage (via self-fulfilling prophecy) poor performance in the administration of that government. If expectations for the efficacy of that agency are low, why would performance not follow the expectations? His assertion is logically defensible even if you disagree with the idea that government can sometimes be the answer.

The straw man here is that corruption and efficacy are two different issues. Corruption is not necessarily caused by negative self-efficacy. That is probably why Krugman doesn't mention corruption.
9.25.2009 12:15pm
Strict:

To be accused of partisanship for pointing out that the Democrats act just as badly as the Republicans


"Just as badly"?

What's worse, for a Democratic legislator to speak to a Republican-controlled executive agency on behalf of a constituent, or for the Republican-controlled executive agency to cave in and approve a product knowing that such product carries a design defect that will harm many medical patients?

I don't see the moral equivalence here. The Republican-controlled FDA had control over the approval process, and it failed to properly protect the public from unnecessary harms. These four legislators had no control over the outcome.
9.25.2009 12:17pm
alkali (mail):
@PatHMV: To answer alkali's question, the "takeaway" is that Congressmen should not "pressure" government employees because they have received campaign contributions. Not all corporate campaign contributions are disguised bribery, you see, and I don't think we should deprive some people of their First Amendment rights simply because some companies and individuals, and some Congressmen, are corrupt.

@egd: Maybe instead of worrying about campaign donors, we should worry about corrupt politicians. It seems to me that it's much better to toss a few career criminals politicians in prison than to infringe on First Amendment rights of the rest of the populace.

Some congressmen made calls on behalf of a constituent company. Executives of that company had made campaign contributions to those congressmen. I'm not aware of any evidence that these were linked. Why are you certain that this is an instance of corruption rather than attentive constituent service and the honorable exercise of First Amendment rights?

To be sure, I'm not asserting that I can be certain there is no corruption here, and indeed I think one reasonable argument in favor of limiting campaign finance contributions is that it's hard to prove corruption. My question is how you can be certain that this is corruption and not something else.
9.25.2009 12:17pm
LN (mail):
Ooh David Nieporent is here. Is he going to ask Bernstein for evidence that anyone (Krugman or otherwise) said "Put the government in the hands of true-believing liberal Democrats, and incompetence and corruption will virtually disappear."

Of course not. But that has nothing to do with partisanship. He's just, uh, concerned about people providing the proper evidence for their claims.
9.25.2009 12:18pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
Can Bernstein just stick to writing about law school? Those are the only posts wherein I learn anything.
9.25.2009 12:21pm
LogicalSC (mail):
What you are seeing are the hypocrites who supporter the Democrats? They don't give a rat's arse about corruption or waste unless it can be used to further their parties grasp on power by labeling against their opponents.

Witness the outrage by Democrats that ACORN was exposed as the criminal enterprise it has ALWAYS been, they were mad at the two people who exposed it not the employees of ACORN. ACORN could have been pimping out Salvadorian twelve years olds in every housing project in America and the supporters would have attacked those two people because ACORN uses its corruption to elect DEMOCRATS to power. Anything is acceptable to these supporters as long as YOU support the proper party, Democrats? Look at there rally around the naked graft of Murtha and his airport to nowhere?
Rangel, Reid, Jefferson all were supported by these leeches simply because the have a (D) behind their name.


Anyone who listens to the deranged Paul Krugman for political or economic advise is serious mentally incapable. That man has some real issues.
9.25.2009 12:27pm
LN (mail):
They don't give a rat's arse about corruption or waste unless it can be used to further their parties grasp on power by labeling against their opponents.

Hey buddy, who reported this corruption? Who brought the FDA's actions to light?

Dum dum dum dum...
9.25.2009 12:30pm
PeteP:
I would add that the only reason the Libertarians, Greenies, et al haven't proven themselves "as corrupt and incompetent" as the Dems and Repubs is that they've never held power, and thus have been deprived of the opportunity to F up as much.
9.25.2009 12:30pm
Strict:

Hey buddy, who reported this corruption? Who brought the FDA's actions to light?


It looks like Democrat Josh Sharfstein is going to have these medical products re-assessed.

Basically this is just another example of cleaning of Bush's mess.
9.25.2009 12:38pm
Angus:
I pledged money to my former Congressman's campaign. I also called his office for help in a dispute I had with an agency of the federal government. The Congressman's office helped me.

That's now considered corruption?
9.25.2009 12:41pm
Strict:
This article is very interesting.

"the agency's [FDA's] acquiescence to the Company's [Regen's] demands for access to the Commissioner and other officials in the Commissioner's office as unprecedented"

The Bush Administration giving corporations unprecedented leverage in the making of important policy decisions? No way!


Peter Lurie of the consumer group Public Citizen, which opposed Menaflex's approval last year, said the report "confirms our suspicion that the approval process here was completely corrupted, and we believe a review of the science will result in its being withdrawn."


"Greenie" / "Liberals" were actually opposed to the product's approval, but the Bush FDA approved it anyway?

Must be because the Greenies are so corrupt!
9.25.2009 12:45pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
"...wild-eyed libertarians intent on drowning the government in a bathtub..."

Dude, don't tease me like that. I'll be weeping all day in mourning for what we don't have.
9.25.2009 12:49pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I agree with Bernstein here.

Under Democrats, government is just plain asinine.
Under Republicans, government bloats to resemble an elephant.

Elephants are nice mascots for some things, but not for government.....
9.25.2009 12:51pm
Strict:

That's now considered corruption?


I actually think this is a case of corruption. I'm not sure if the four legislators did anything illegal - they might have. But I'm almost certain that some Bush FDA people did illegal things when they doctored their reports in order to fast-track the product to approval.

But I'm not sure what people expect from politicians when they are allowed to receive money from corporations. Do we expect them to take money from Corporation X, and then not do anything to help Corporation X? That's counterintuitive and obviously not what happens in real life.

I think this case shows how easily Bush agencies were corrupted.
9.25.2009 12:53pm
Sarcastro (www):
I would also like to disagree with Berstein without addressing the substance of his post. If I complain enough, it is sure to encourage him to open up comments!
9.25.2009 12:53pm
Strict:
Haha hey there 'castro.

I think the heart of this case is really here:


[Bush] agency managers overruled the scientists


As far as the charge of "incompetence" goes: these four legislators set out with a goal, and facing huge odds against them (hard science which concluded that the product was defective), achieved that goal. They achieved that goal by exploiting the corruptibility of Bush officials. They got FDA managers to overrule the scientists and approve the product.

How is that "incompetent"? The four legislators sound "corrupt" (in the sense they put the interests of a corrupt financial donor about the physical well-being interests of real humans) and the FDA managers sound corrupt AND incompetent. It was the FDA managers' job to make sure unsafe products don't hit the market. They failed in their task - they were incompetent.
9.25.2009 1:03pm
Strict:
I meant "above," not "about."
9.25.2009 1:04pm
LN (mail):
Sarcastro:

1. Bernstein takes an example of a Democratic FDA overturning a corrupt decision made by a Republican FDA as evidence that Democrats are just as corrupt as Republicans.

2. Bernstein claims that he constantly heard the refrain "Put the government in the hands of true-believing liberal Democrats, and incompetence and corruption will virtually disappear." Evidence for this: zero.

3. Bloggers and commenters here spend considerable energy arguing that (a) campaign donations = free speech; (b) corporations have constitutionally protected free speech; (c) there is no such thing as the public interest, just self-interested individuals jockeying for power. Then Bernstein comes along talking about "corruption" without batting an eye.
9.25.2009 1:05pm
subpatre (mail):
LM asks "Hey buddy, who reported this corruption? Who brought the FDA's actions to light? Dum dum dum dum...

The FDA actions were first exposed in the Wall Street Journal on March 6, 2009.

Why'd you ask? Looking for more non-non-partisanship?
9.25.2009 1:08pm
G. Steve Arnold (mail):
Republicans abuse their authority, Democrats abuse their positiion.
9.25.2009 1:12pm
LN (mail):
From the Wall Street Journal article you linked:


In January, a group of nine FDA staff scientists in the device division wrote to Congress, and to the Obama transition team, calling on the president to remove top FDA medical-device regulators. The device-approval process has been "corrupted and distorted by current FDA managers," the letter says. The letter's authors haven't been publicly identified.


It shouldn't be that hard to figure out why I asked the question; look at the comment I was responding to.
9.25.2009 1:13pm
egd:
subpatre:

The FDA actions were first exposed in the Wall Street Journal on March 6, 2009.

It's almost like you're suggesting that the New York Times was late to the party...again!
9.25.2009 1:17pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

To be accused of partisanship for pointing out that the Democrats act just as badly as the Republicans, which means that the accuser believes that the Democrats are a lot better than the Republicans, is about as good a pot-kettle example as I can think of.


This statement seemed like something that I should comment on. "I will take your word" that you believe Democrats are as bad as Republicans (not that anybody reading your post would take that message away), and this is probably even true. Further, I'm not a lawyer, and hence am not as well versed in analogies and proportionality as you are, but may I humbly point out that one example hardly makes the grand case that you seem to believe you have made?
9.25.2009 1:18pm
Kazinski:
I'm always struck by the number of comments when Bernstein and Lindgren open comments on the line of:


You shouldn't blog on this topic.


Oh, there are a few who disagree on substance, but the most vehement are those who nitpick at minor issues to try to discredit the entire post, without going near the substansive point.

And I think Bernstein's point is valid, Governement whether in the hands of Big Government Liberals or Big Government Conservatives is going to be wasteful, incompetent and corrupt. Smaller government is going to at least reduce the scale of the problem. And if it leaves us all freer, and more money in our pockets, then all the better.
9.25.2009 1:21pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
but may I humbly point out that one example hardly makes the grand case that you seem to believe you have made?
The reason I said it's an example is because it's an example. If I had meant it was proof, I would have said it was proof.
9.25.2009 1:22pm
Vader:

Krugman's claim - that Republicans simply don't think the government can do anything right - is wholly accurate.


Um. I'm currently registered as a Republican. I think there are some things the government is the best institution to be doing. So who's setting up the strawman now?

In fact, no Republican I know personally advocates this view. I believe those who advocate this view tend to drop out of the Republican Party and become Libertarians.
9.25.2009 1:22pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

The reason I said it's an example is because it's an example. If I had meant it was proof, I would have said it was proof.


Good. I agree with you that it's a random anecdote that isn't evidence of anything.
9.25.2009 1:26pm
LN (mail):
Wait wait wait come on here. So now everyone here is a wonderful believer in the importance of government regulation? I mean, who cares if the FDA approved this device? Why are citizens relying on wasteful government regulation to figure out if medical devices are safe or not? And if people really have a problem with some New Jersey politicians taking money from a corporation, they can make their own donations to other politicians who better represent them. Free speech, baby; enough with the moralizing and the "public interest" and "common good" nonsense.

No?
9.25.2009 1:27pm
pot meet kettle (mail):
Specifically, as a continuation of the previous post, I am glad we agree that the post does not really come even close to providing any evidence for its theme as defined by its author.


a post whose theme is that when given power the Democrats are just as corrupt and incompetent as the Republicans.
9.25.2009 1:33pm
pot meet kettle (mail):
Specifically, as a continuation of the previous post, I am glad we agree that the post does not really come even close to providing evidence for its theme as defined by its author.


a post whose theme is that when given power the Democrats are just as corrupt and incompetent as the Republicans.
9.25.2009 1:33pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
As Bernstein notes, when we libertarians criticize Democrats they accuse us of being closet Republicans, but when we criticize Republicans they just call us crazy. The fact is that both parties push bigger and bigger government when they get power. The main difference is that the Democrats tend to push bigger government even when they're out of power. That's more honest, at least.

Given the alternatives, I'm for the Gridlock Party. The one time in recent history that government spending was kept within some bounds and we actually paid down on the debt was the last 6 years of Clinton's presidency, when a lack of agreement with the Republican-controlled Congress on how to spend money led to less spending than we'd have gotten under total control by either party.
9.25.2009 1:43pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

when a lack of agreement with the Republican-controlled Congress on how to spend money led to less spending than we'd have gotten under total control by either party.


that, and a president who focused on keynesian economics to use a period of wonderful economic growth to balance the budget. details. details.
9.25.2009 1:44pm
LN (mail):

As Bernstein notes, when we libertarians criticize Democrats they accuse us of being closet Republicans, but when we criticize Republicans they just call us crazy.


This is what ReGen had to say (from the WSJ article linked above):


A ReGen representative said the firm needed to be "aggressive" and "adversarial" because if it hadn't "confronted" delays caused by the FDA, "ReGen would have been out of business and a very valuable device would have been unavailable to patients."

Menaflex has been approved in Europe for several years, where it has been used in about 2,800 patients, a small proportion of meniscus-repair operations. ReGen says it has received very few complaints.

European regulators generally require only that medical devices perform as stated and don't apply a risk-benefit evaluation akin to the FDA's full approval process.


So why are libertarians suddenly siding with the FDA here?

And so some politicians took some campaign contributions and advocated on behalf of some constituents. I didn't realize libertarians had a problem with that.
9.25.2009 1:54pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Good. I agree with you that it's a random anecdote that isn't evidence of anything.
You need to learn the difference between "evidence" and "proof."
9.25.2009 1:54pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

You need to learn the difference between "evidence" and "proof."


I realize I am not as well versed in the English language, logic, analogy, or proportionality as your esteemed self, but this seems to my uneducated lumpen clay mind like saying "People say America is relatively unpopulated as compared to India, India has people, today I saw a person in America, this is evidence towards the claim that American is as populated as India is".
9.25.2009 2:08pm
pot meet kettle (mail):
Not to mention the additional step in analogy of population being a structural problem inherent to the human sexual drive and the need to reproduce.
9.25.2009 2:16pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
An example is evidence, usually meant to illustrate a broader principle. When someone writes "the LATEST example," he is obviously alluded to additional evidence, that he assumes the reader is aware of (and surely we are all aware of other recent examples of Democrats acting incompetently or corruptly). But even those examples wouldn't constitute proof. They're not meant to. They, along with pointing out that Krugman's theory doesn't make any sense to begin with, are meant to allow who allowed himself to be taken in by Krugman to rethink their premises. Someone who isn't "partisan" and merely keeps their eyes open for stories like this one will note that not only were the Bushies not anti-government, which I think is well-established and itself a refutation of Krugman, but also that people who are overtly pro-government display plenty of incompetence and corruption.

Of course, this thread shows that there are plenty of individuals who are so wedded to their "Republicans bad, Democrats good" premises that they are, thus far, beyond reasoned debate. Democrats improperly (but successfully) pressuring the outgoing Republican administration to help the formers' donors. ENTIRELY the Bush Administrations' fault.
9.25.2009 2:29pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
And by the way the India analogy isn't a good one. It's more like a Catholic arguing that Protestant ministers are corrupt because they don't take vows of poverty and chastity, look at all the evangelical leaders' sex scandals, etc. Response: what makes you think that this is a product of vows as opposed to human nature and opportunism, see the recent Catholic priest scandals.
9.25.2009 2:32pm
Strict:

Democrats improperly (but successfully)


You still have yet to explain how their success translates into "incompetence."

Or how taking money from a corporate donor and then taking actions to benefit that corporation is "corrupt." (I think it probably is, but the basic libertarian position is that it is not).
9.25.2009 2:36pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Libertarian Party message:

Vote against corruption. Vote Libertarian. We're not corrupt (because we don't have any power and won't sell out, so we don't get the big donations).
Maybe some, but that isn't really where at least some libertarians come from.

David alluded to the problem that I see with government and government employees - the problems are structural. And the bigger the government, the more structural problems you are going to see. It isn't that big government is bad, per se, or that government employees are evil, or any of that, but rather, that it is bad because of inherent structural problems, and the bigger it gets, the worse it gets.

Let me add that I worked in and for the federal government for the fifteen years that I worked as a software engineer, in a number of departments and agencies, notably Commerce (Census and NOAA), Agriculture (primarily Forest Service, but most of the rest too), Energy (most of the national labs west of the Mississippi), and, even the IRS a couple of times. I am sure I missed a couple too.

But what I found was that government employees fell roughly into two categories - hard working optimists, and those who had taken on-the-job retirement. Unfortunately, right now, the later category almost always have priority for jobs, when jobs are cut. I would expect a lot more "functionals" (like you have to deal with at the local DMV) in areas where there were a lot of clerical workers, but I saw more of the young idealists than anything.

So, really, it isn't that government workers are lazy or corrupt. Yes, the system does tend to ultimately encourage that, but I knew plenty who weren't.

Yet, that doesn't mean that government agencies or departments can do anything efficiently or well. Or that they are really accountable. They almost never can. Why?

My theory is that it revolves around the fact that there is no real bottom line in government agencies. Companies go out of business when they don't do their job, and their bottom line is always at least breaking even. So, when things get tight, that guy who took on-the-job retirement a couple of years ago is dumped. Or, the company fails.

Governments don't have a bottom line. Rather, they have a number of, invariably conflicting, goals. They cannot possibly meet all those goals, since resources are not infinite (even if the government could acquire all of those that are available).

For example, an agency may have $X to do something, and might be able to do it if it could hire whomever it wanted. But, it can't, because then they wouldn't have the right color, sex, and military consistency. Oh, and then the task may violate environmental, work safety, etc. limitations. And, it can't get done quickly anyway, since it has to go out for competitive bid through the government procurement process, etc. And how about the CO2, lead, and other pollutants? How green are the various proposals? And, the agency is likely to have other, internal, goals that have to be considered too.

So, in the end, most anything that the government does is done half assed, because there are so many metrics involved. And, to some extent, those running the projects, departments, divisions, agencies, and departments (below the appointed level) have a lot a lot of power to do what they want, because they can always point to how well they are doing against other metrics when called on failing on any one.

And what do they want? Most likely, they are greedy like the rest of us (which is the underlying reason that socialism invariably fails). They want money now, and in retirement. This often means trying to make more money in a highly regimented system, where the best way to do so is to build an empire. The bigger the empire, the more people under you, the higher the grade needed to run the empire.

Yes, companies have the same problem - except that inefficient and counter-productive empires get dismantled when the companies get desperate when they lose profitability. One thing that governments do not have are mechanisms to force this.

As a final note, one thing that is a bit scary about this Administration is its heavy use of "czars". The problem with them is that they blur the lines of authority, without changing the lines of responsibility. And, the result is that agencies have just one more power center to give it conflicting requirements, goals, and mandates, all without having any responsibility for the real operation of the agencies that they are involved with. They weaken the already weak power that appointed officials have to get the bureaucracy to do what it is supposed to be doing.
9.25.2009 2:41pm
Joe The Plumber (mail):
Yep, those liberals running Washington love government:


The U.S. government failed to send promised college tuition checks to tens of thousands of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars before they returned to school this fall, even after being warned that it was inadequately staffed for the job.

The Veterans Affairs Department blamed a backlog of claims filed for GI Bill education benefits that has left veterans who counted on the money for tuition and books scrambling to make ends meet.


And veterans too...
9.25.2009 2:45pm
Joe The Plumber (mail):
Oh come on, David. Anti-government rhetoric is a staple of Republican politics.

I guess that is what constitutes "evidence" or "proof" to you leftists...
9.25.2009 2:47pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Another problem that is inherent in government is agency capture. You see it at the local level, when the teachers often capture the school board and insurance companies capture the insurance commission. And, you see it at the federal level, and everywhere in between.

There are several reasons for this, including that the other constituencies are much more diffuse, and the regulated almost always have much more at stake in the outcome. And, they are in it for the long run, while the public's interest has gone elsewhere.
9.25.2009 2:49pm
Joe The Plumber (mail):
The facts don't support your generalized conclusion that Democrats are just as incompetent and corrupt as Republicans

Hilarious.
Um, do you mean like Charlie Rangel?
Or like William Jefferson?
Or did you mean like Blago?
How about this?


The FBI has arrested 44 people and accused them of fraud, accepting bribes, trafficking in human organs, money laundering and other nefarious activities. Among those arrested were prominent rabbis with plush homes in Deal, NJ.
The most disturbing aspect of the arrests was that several New Jersey elected officials were arrested, cuffed and charged with accepting bribes. These were:
Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III (D),
Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell (D),
Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez (D),
Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini (D),
State Assemblymen Harvey Smith (D) and
State Assemblymen Daniel Van Pelt (D).


I could go on all day...
9.25.2009 2:51pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Finally (at least for now), the problem I see with the theory that Democrats are more likely to run the government well because they believe in bigger government, is that it assumes that the government can be run well. And, throwing in a bunch of zealous advocates for something, without a lot of administrative experience under their belts, is liable to make things worse, not better.

Keep in mind that when this Administration leaves, in 3 years, 7 years, or whenever, the bureaucrats will still be there, and so will most of the programs. What will be gone are the wild eyed zealots at the top giving conflicting operating directions, replaced by others giving other conflicting directions. All conflicting with the stated goals of the agency, and any number of other agencies.

So, my view is that if the size of government were ea wash, then having Democrats or Republicans running the government is probably irrelevant as to how efficiently it runs. Rather, the big determinant would be the experience that those brought in at the top having in dealing with government agencies and getting them to do what the Administration wants them to do.

Democrats, on average, might have an edge there, since they may be better at attracting people with a lot of organizational experience (and, yes, I do think that a lot of that can be transferred from business, just not all).

But, with this Administration, I don't think that they do. There seem to be too many wild eyed zealots, and too few experienced hands (maybe because of tax problems).

But, also, all things are not equal because many Democrats tend to want to increase the size of government more than many Republicans do, and esp. with large majorities on Congress, can. And, any small efficiency gained by putting more capable people at the top (which this Administration doesn't appear to be doing that much of) is offset, may times over, by the added inefficiency that results from the increased size of government.
9.25.2009 3:03pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Joe the Plumber refers to the arrest of corrupt "New Jersey State Assemblymen Daniel Van Pelt (D)". Van Pelt is a Republican.

Joe reminds me of when Fox News ran (D) next to Mark Foley's name after Foley was caught in a sex scandal. Indeed, Fox does this with disgraced public officials so often, it's almost not surprising that Joe would bungle this. (Joe didn't cite sources. Mine is the official New Jersey web site.)
9.25.2009 3:11pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
The facts don't support your generalized conclusion that Democrats are just as incompetent and corrupt as Republicans
I have seen little evidence, as of yet, indicating that the Democrats running the country right now are any more competent than the Republicans who did so before them.

But what is becoming increasingly evident, is that they are far more corrupt. One may argue that that is a result of more Democrats believing that a lifetime in government (elected or career) is honorable. But there does seem to be a direct relationship between how long someone has been in Congress, and how corrupt they are. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, but...

But it isn't just that the Democrats running Congress right now are notably more corrupt than their Republican predecessors, but also that this Administration seems almost oblivious to corruption in its ranks. We have a tax cheat running Treasury, which overseas the IRS, and the guy who helped get Marc Rich his pardon in trade for enriching the Clintons running Justice. And, at least the appearance that the AG has dropped corruption charges against political allies, while IGs get fired for whistle blowing, and the CIA gets a witch hunt for successfully protecting us against terrorist attacks. All, within the first eight months or so of this Administration.

So, no, I don't think that Democrats are less corrupt, on average, than Republicans.
9.25.2009 3:13pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Joe reminds me of when Fox News ran (D) next to Mark Foley's name after Foley was caught in a sex scandal. Indeed, Fox does this with disgraced public officials so often, it's almost not surprising that Joe would bungle this. (Joe didn't cite sources. Mine is the official New Jersey web site.)
Let me suggest that they do this precisely because the other major news outlets, whether broadcast or print, don't. Rather, they tend to put an (R) by the name of corrupt Republicans, but ignore the party if it is a corrupt Democrat.
9.25.2009 3:16pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Bush Cabinet Member Gale Norton (R) is at the center of a corruption probe, and the Washington Post hasn't managed to cover it yet, with all of its reporters out investigating ACORN. That makes it easier for people like Bruce Hayden to get the distorted impression that Democrats are more corrupt. There's plenty of corruption to go around, and how a story about FDA behavior that occurred under Bush is a really about Democrats is baffling.
9.25.2009 3:19pm
Putting Two and Two...:

pro-Democrat


Maybe we could get to the bottom of this if Bernstein would identify this lone Democrat he's always talking about.
9.25.2009 3:46pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
pot:


when a lack of agreement with the Republican-controlled Congress on how to spend money led to less spending than we'd have gotten under total control by either party.

that, and a president who focused on keynesian economics to use a period of wonderful economic growth to balance the budget. details. details.

So, with a Democratic-dominated Congress, old Bill C would have put his foot down and vetoed additional spending? Doubtful. And in general, is paying down debt when you've got the money Keynesian? Or just common sense? The disagreement arises where Keynes says the government should spend money it doesn't have.

LN:

So why are libertarians suddenly siding with the FDA here?

Oh geez. One can criticize congressmen for pressuring the FDA to disregard scientific evidence, without believing that the FDA itself is so great.
9.25.2009 4:01pm
Derrick (mail):
I have seen little evidence, as of yet, indicating that the Democrats running the country right now are any more competent than the Republicans who did so before them.

But what is becoming increasingly evident, is that they are far more corrupt.


It is so because Bruce Hayde beeeliiievees it! No facts or evidence are necessary!
9.25.2009 4:11pm
ArthurKirkland:

UPDATE: It's amusing to get accused of anti-Democrat "partisanship" in the comments for a post whose theme is that when given power the Democrats are just as corrupt and incompetent as the Republicans.


Maybe this occurs because, after carping about an expenditure to commemorate Ted Kenndy, you claim to be just as appalled by spending on Reagan glorification as by spending on Kennedy glorification . . . yet the likelihood you wrote a single pre-Kennedy syllable about the far greater spending on Reagan's name resembles the likelihood that Jessica Simpson will replace Gretchen Wilson on the Harvard physics faculty someday.
9.25.2009 6:17pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Let me clarify something - I don't believe that Democrats, per se, on average, are more corrupt than Republicans, but rather that this Administration, possibly through its lack of experience, has hired more than its share of questionable people (and tried to hire a bunch more, many of whom were dropped when their corruption came to light).

As for Gale Norton - note that she is the first (and likely last) Bush cabinet level appointee to be the subject of a formal political corruption investigation. And whatever happened happened in either 2005 and/or 2006.
9.25.2009 6:30pm
yankee (mail):
It's amusing to get accused of anti-Democrat "partisanship" in the comments for a post whose theme is that when given power the Democrats are just as corrupt and incompetent as the Republicans.

If this is the "theme" it is a very well-hidden one.
9.25.2009 6:40pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Jon Roland:

Vote against corruption. Vote Libertarian. We're not corrupt (because we don't have any power and won't sell out, so we don't get the big donations).

As long as money can influence the outcomes of elections it will, and it will buy the influence that power brings. Unless or until people start voting for the candidates who don't receive much money at all, the situation won't change.

This is like the "nobody goes there any more, it's too crowded" logic. By your reasoning, voting for Libertarians would just make them powerful and corrupt.

++++++++++++++++

Vader:

In fact, no Republican I know personally advocates th[e] view [that Republicans simply don't think the government can do anything right]. I believe those who advocate this view tend to drop out of the Republican Party and become Libertarians.

Grover Norquist isn't a Republican?

+++++++++++++++++

David Bernstein,

I will just say that when I attack Republicans, Republican readers rarely accuse me of a being a pro-Democrat hack, they rightly accuse me of wild-eye libertarianism. When I criticize Democrats--even on the grounds that they are just as bad as Republicans!--though, the usual suspects come out and claim that I'm a Republican hack. That says a lot more about the usual suspects than about me

As a native English speaker, the differences between Texas, New York and British dialects couldn't be more obvious. To someone less steeped in the language, those differences can be opaque. I think what you're describing speaks to how much more self-identified libertarians have in common with Republicans than they do with Democrats. From our point of view, you guys can seem remarkably difficult to tell apart.
9.25.2009 6:52pm
ArthurKirkland:

By your reasoning the apparently immutable laws of human nature, voting for Libertarians would just make them powerful and corrupt.
9.25.2009 7:18pm
Allan Walstad (mail):

[re Bernstein] I think what you're describing speaks to how much more self-identified libertarians have in common with Republicans than they do with Democrats. From our point of view, you guys can seem remarkably difficult to tell apart.

Well, let's see. Most libertarians have opposed the Iraq invasion and occupation. Opposed the Patriot Act and its re-authorization. Opposed the "War on Drugs." Opposed Bush's expansion of Medicare and his "No Child Left Behind" boondoggle. Are you starting to see the differences more clearly, or do you just not want to?
9.25.2009 7:38pm
ThomasD (mail):
It's amusing to get accused of anti-Democrat "partisanship" in the comments for a post whose theme is that when given power the Democrats are just as corrupt and incompetent as the Republicans.

Well, that is the definition of partisanship - speaking negatively of Democrats in positions of power.

Or so I've been told.
9.25.2009 7:52pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
walstad:

Most libertarians have opposed the Iraq invasion and occupation


Really? Prove it.

Arguably the most visible 'libertarian' blogger is Glenn Reynolds. He opposed the war?

This is supposedly a libertarian blog. VC posts pre-war can be found here. I see plenty of pro-war statements (they are easy to find, but let me know if you would like me to enumerate specific examples). I see no anti-war statements. Do you?

If "most libertarians" opposed the war, where are their pre-war statements opposing the war? I'm sure there are some such statements, but are they congruent with your claim of "most?"
9.25.2009 8:05pm
Eli Rabett (www):
FWIW, multiple heads have rolled in the FDA Center for Medical Devices and Radiological Health in the last couple of months.
9.25.2009 10:19pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
jukeboxgrad:

This blog is more conservative--even neocon--than libertarian, overall. What attracted me here in the first place was the mostly pro-gun rights tilt. Go to LP.org for the Libertarian Party, of which I'm a life member. If you find two pro-Iraq-War words to scrape together, I'll consider renouncing my membership. Ron Paul is a Republican who actually ran for president as a Libertarian in the 80s. His views are libertarian enough to make him a near-pariah in his own party. You may remember he was the only candidate for the Republican nomination who outright opposed Bush's warmongering, as well as the Patriot Act. Over at the Mises Institute (Mises.org) they're all for free markets and against the war. Robert Higgs and company at the Independent Institute: same thing. Some of these folks also blog at Liberty &Power, which you can click on at the Blog Roll above. Granted, there are some avowed libertarians who favored the war--you'll find some divergence of opinion at CATO and over at Reason Magazine, I believe--that's why I said "most" Libertarians opposed it. You might want to check some of these organizations out, even just for the sake of fascination in finding what you don't seem to think can exist: lots and lots of people who support free markets and free trade and oppose empire.
9.25.2009 10:21pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

So, with a Democratic-dominated Congress, old Bill C would have put his foot down and vetoed additional spending? Doubtful


Ok :)


And in general, is paying down debt when you've got the money Keynesian? Or just common sense? The disagreement arises where Keynes says the government should spend money it doesn't have.


Umm, keynes doesn't say that. That's where the accumulation of surplus during the crest in the business cycle (which is what Clinton did) comes in.
9.25.2009 10:30pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

Of course, this thread shows that there are plenty of individuals who are so wedded to their "Republicans bad, Democrats good" premises that they are, thus far, beyond reasoned debate.


Again, Professor, your understanding of proof and evidence is far superior to mine, as of course is your grasp of analogy, but your statement is like saying that if people throw up on the food at McDonalds, it shows that they are wedded to the notion that burgers are inherently disgusting.
9.25.2009 10:33pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

ut even those examples wouldn't constitute proof. They're not meant to.


Professor, I believe the word you are looking for to describe your posts is innuendo. As always though, you peddle this far better than I ever could, so apologies for presuming.
9.25.2009 10:36pm
GeoBarto (www):
Every bill signed by a Democratic President should contain this final paragraph:

Even if a president identical to George W. Bush were elected and given the responsibilities and powers involved in the enforcement of this law, as written, I would want it on the books.

Every Republican president should face that same final paragraph with Jimmy Carter's name substituted.

This story isn't just about corruption and the FDA. It's also a warning about Obamacare: Would you think it's such a great idea if President Sarah Palin got to appoint the people running it?
9.25.2009 10:52pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

It's also a warning about Obamacare: Would you think it's such a great idea if President Sarah Palin got to appoint the people running it?


This, honestly, is the best argument I've heard against Obamacare. And surprisingly (given that it is a good argument), it was made by a republican hack like Mankiw! Of course, I don't think he really believed it as much as he was using it as a cheap shot, since he prefers to indulge in scaremongering over rationing and other boilerplate bogeymen. Mankiw is another sad example of what an excellent intellect and engaging writer are reduced to when they become peddlers of pathetic talking points.

Given that one of the two parties is circling the drain, and it is very likely that it will come to power at some point in the next twenty years or so, how much power do we want to give those folks? (And the wonder of two party competition is that it will only be a matter of time before the other party finds its own drain to circle.)
9.25.2009 10:57pm
Allan Walstad (mail):


And in general, is paying down debt when you've got the money Keynesian? Or just common sense? The disagreement arises where Keynes says the government should spend money it doesn't have.

Umm, keynes doesn't say that. That's where the accumulation of surplus during the crest in the business cycle (which is what Clinton did) comes in.

Ok, I can't put my finger on a quote by Keynes. I've had his General Theory on my shelf for some years and can't get to it. But Keynes' name is invoked by proponents of massive deficit spending during economic downturns--like, Obama's so-called "stimulus." This isn't about spending any (non-existent) surplus, it's all about printing money out of thin air or going deeper in debt to China. I suppose it's quite possible that Keynes himself would disavow this "Keynesianism."
9.25.2009 11:02pm
pot meet kettle (mail):

But Keynes' name is invoked by proponents of massive deficit spending during economic downturns--like, Obama's so-called "stimulus." This isn't about spending any (non-existent) surplus, it's all about printing money out of thin air or going deeper in debt to China. I suppose it's quite possible that Keynes himself would disavow this "Keynesianism."


Again, the fact that certain presidents who will not be named ran deficits during an economic boom cycle is the problem, not the government spending during a recession.
9.25.2009 11:04pm
Allan Walstad (mail):

the fact that certain presidents who will not be named ran deficits during an economic boom cycle is the problem, not the government spending during a recession.

Well, maybe so, but my quibbles with that would take us too far from the subject of the thread and too far into the night (EDT here).
9.26.2009 12:15am
ArthurKirkland:
Glenn Reynolds is no libertarian. He described himself as a "movement conservative" in a letter. He may be more anti-Democrat than Republican, but his libertarianism strikes me an affect, perhaps designed to hawk more Amazon products.
9.26.2009 12:58am
roystgnr:
When hiring a chef for your steakhouse do you hire a Vegan who dislikes people who eat meat or someone who enjoys a good ribeye? That's the essence of Krugman's point.

When hiring an executive, do you hire someone who thinks he is good enough to micromanage his employees or someone who knows when to delegate to their experience and respect their closeness to the work?

When hiring a general, do you hire someone who thinks that war is a great idea or someone who thinks that it's a horrible last resort?

Or, to go straight to the heart of humility and epistemology, we can look at a change a few hundred years ago that was so significant we've been calling it "The Enlightenment" ever since:

When learning about the world, do you want to hire a believer who knows all his opinions are true or a scientist who keeps making up new ways to try and find out when they're false?

It is entirely reasonable for someone to believe that government (or bureaucracy, or war, or falsehood) is bad, but also believe that it is an unavoidable or even necessary evil that must be handled as competently as possible.


Note: I'm not saying that Republicans are competent, particularly not this latest batch. But the kind of ridiculous hubris displayed by "everything will run smoothly with us in charge" Democrats was part of how the Republicans became incompetent.
9.26.2009 1:21pm
eyesay:
egd wrote "Can anyone argue with a straight face that Krugman was anything but angry with the Bush administration for having the temerity to be Republicans?" With a straight face, I assert that Krugman criticized the Bush administration for policies that he saw as objectively bad, such as failing to grapple with climate change; for policies that he saw as favoring Bush's political friends and the rich over everyone else; for dragging the United States into a costly war based on misinformation the Bush administration deliberately provided us; and for general incompetence, such as all of the events surrounding Katrina. It was not anger over being Republican.
9.26.2009 2:27pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
<blockquote>So what is the takeaway here? We should abolish the FDA? Congressmen should not take contributions from or make calls on behalf of constitutents? Bush family friends are not to be trusted as managers of federal agencies? You tell me.</blockquote>

The UL (certifier of electrical eqpt.) doesn't seem to have these problems.
9.26.2009 7:15pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
And just to see if I can get it right:


So what is the takeaway here? We should abolish the FDA? Congressmen should not take contributions from or make calls on behalf of constitutents? Bush family friends are not to be trusted as managers of federal agencies? You tell me.


The UL (certifier of electrical eqpt.) doesn't seem to have these problems.
9.26.2009 7:20pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
I was a Libertarian for 15 years I quit shortly after 9/11 because of the Lib stance on the war.

I'm now a libertarian Republican. Down with the Drug War. Up with the war on aggressive Islam.
9.26.2009 7:24pm
Allan Walstad (mail):

I was a Libertarian for 15 years I quit shortly after 9/11 because of the Lib stance on the war.

I'm now a libertarian Republican. Down with the Drug War. Up with the war on aggressive Islam.

You listening, jukeboxgrad? Libertarians oppose the war.
9.26.2009 11:51pm

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