A Plea to My Fellow Economists

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[Update November 15: read this first.  It will save you time.]

Last summer any number of foreign policy experts wrote open letters opposing Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Some declared outright that they would not work in the Trump administration even if they were asked. While this note is addressed to my colleagues in the economics profession, I hope our foreign policy counterparts will listen to my plea.

There are many competent, qualified professional economists in the U.S. Some may be invited to serve in the Trump administration. Their inclination will be to say, “No.”

Please don’t do this. Mr. Trump’s current team of economic advisers is about the worst I have ever seen. I’ve written about his chief adviser, Peter Navarro, who is no more qualified to be an economic adviser than I am to play in the National Basketball Association.

There are, however, a number of good economists who labor in obscurity. I am especially partial to those who do the number-crunching, specifically statistical analysis. I oppose economists who rely on models that are entirely endogenous and based on assumptions. (Jonathan Gruber’s “micro-simulation model” cited when he supported the ACA is one such animal.)

So, in no particular order, here’s my list:

  1. Casey B. Mulligan, U. of Chicago has done some of the best, most original number-crunching on the impact of the ACA and other Obama programs. His predictions have been more accurate than almost anyone else.
  2. Karen H. Johnson retired as Director of the Division of International Finance at the Federal Reserve Board in 2007. But you’ll need to find her first.  Since her retirement she has apparently decided to maintain her privacy.  Dr. Johnson would bring valuable experience and intelligence to any attempt to reform the Fed.  She is very smart and articulate.  Disclaimer: she was my dissertation adviser at Stanford.
  3. David Neumark, U.C. Irvine has done the best empirical work on the minimum wage and poverty available today.
  4. Bob Hall, Stanford and the Hoover Institute. Along with Chad Jones (Stanford) Bob has the kind of eclectic research portfolio that should serve him well in Washington.
  5. Don Fullerton, University of Illinois and National Bureau of Economic Research (although a spot in the EPA might be a better fit given his expertise in environmental economics).
  6. Charles I Jones, Stanford Graduate School of Business. (See Bob Hall above.)

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Astute readers will notice the absence of any faculty from Harvard, MIT, and other famous programs east of Lake Michigan.  Frankly, these are the folks who got us into this mess.  I hasten to add that some of Prof. Mulligan’s colleagues at Chicago have made their own special contributions to the current U.S. economic malaise.


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About Tony Lima

Retired after teaching economics at California State Univ., East Bay (Hayward, CA). Ph.D., economics, Stanford. Also taught MBA finance at the California University of Management and Technology. Occasionally take on a consulting project if it's interesting. Other interests include wine and technology.