Monday, October 11, 2004


Many people complain about how the newspapers misquote them. I typically don't have this issue because people are calling for rather arcane facts and will quote directly because they don't know what else to do with the quote. Monetary policy isn't the forte of many regional newspaper reporters. My wife woke up yesterday before me and had read the paper before I did. I knew this article (I'm using the Monday archived version, which won't work Tuesday) would come out with the debate scheduled for Congressman Mark Kennedy and challenger Patty Wetterling (which didn't happen anyway because Congress was still in session). The reporter, Larry Schumacher, spoke with me on the phone for about 45 minutes, and I was curious what he used from that discussion, which was mostly a backgrounder on economic policy of the Bush administration.

Both candidates' positions on the economy and taxes resemble those of President Bush and his Democratic challenger, John Kerry, said King Banaian, professor of economics at St. Cloud State.

Kennedy's argument on tax cuts helping a weak economy is strong, but he has no good answer on reining in the runaway deficit, he said.

Wetterling can rightly point to a lack of jobs, but whether any government policy can overcome businesses' reluctance to hire more workers is debatable, he said.

And her argument in favor of "fair trade" smacks of protectionism and ties to labor interests that Kennedy can use against her, Banaian said.

Ultimately, Banaian said he doesn't think concerns about the economy will drive this election, and Kennedy's tax votes will help him.

"The corridor between St. Cloud and Minneapolis-St. Paul has a lot of people who got out of the Cities," he said. "Why did they leave? They really wanted to be left alone. I think Kennedy's message will appeal to a lot of them."

Mrs. Scholar thought I had thrown Kennedy under the bus with the runaway deficit line. I said in reply that I had first made the remark about the deficit in response to a discussion about Bush's economic policy platform (wherein deficit reduction is a byproduct of other platform promises and put on the stock market decline and the war, as Bush did in the debate.) And the runaway adjective I'm pretty sure I did not use in that context.

Larry asked as well what I would advise Wetterling to debate with Kennedy if I was advising her. I thought about not answering him, but in my professional capacity it wasn't an unreasonable question to ask. And to me the only place to get at Kennedy was on the deficit question. But as I said in the quote, it's not going to matter for much.

One of the quotes he didn't take: It's a lousy election year to be a macroeconomist, because nobody cares about macro in this election. As my colleague Rich MacDonald said in the same article I'm quoted in, the data are quite muddled, but the economy is growing, the jobs data isn't that bad. It's just hard to get any exposure for that discussion when Iraq and the GWOT dominates every debate.

They say Wednesday will be different. We'll see.