Robert Samuelson Attacks–and Engages in–‘Soundbite Economics’

Newsweek columnist Robert Samuelson (9/18/10) has had it with the way we discuss economics:

With every election, we descend into soundbite economics. Rhetorical claims grow more partisan and self-serving…. These debates confirm the dreary state of economic discourse.

He points his finger at both the right and the left, but then goes on to basically endorse the right-wing critique of Obama’s policies–as in, “Confidence is crucial to stimulating consumer spending and business investment, and Obama constantly subverts confidence.” As an example, Samuelson writes that “the moratorium on deepwater drilling kills jobs.”

It’s refreshing tosee that he’s not stoopingtopartisan soundbites! A recent White House report showed that job loss due to the moratorium is much lower than was expected, and that many of those job losses will be temporary. As Grist noted (9/17/10), the Wall Street Journal reported that Louisiana parishes tied to the drilling industry saw some job increases.

Samuelson goes on to refer to Obama’s plan to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthy another sign of “his delusional approach.” Again–good to see that he’s avoiding partisan soundbites. The problem, as Samuelson sees it, is that the tax cuts will hurt small businesses–the tax increases will “affect 725,000 returns with about $400 billion of business income.” As Dean Baker pointed out, the tax hikes for the vast majority of those considered small business will be small:

The Joint Tax Committee of Congress projected that the average tax hit on tax filers with incomes between $200,000 and $500,000 (the vast majority of the affected small businesses) would see an increase in their taxes of just $500. This is unlikely to have much impact on their hiring and growth. It is also worth noting that the higher Clinton era tax rates were in place in the late ’90s, when the economy was generating more than 8,000 jobs a day.

Samuelson wraps up the pieceby noting that our “campaign discourse is strangely disconnected from underlying economic realities.” Is he talking about his column?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.