[FoRK] The Economist: Bush economics bad

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Wed Oct 13 08:57:56 PDT 2004

Even allowing for partisanship, Bush's performance is abysmal (say 100 
academic economists polled.)  Click through for pretty infoporn:


The dismal science bites back
Oct 7th 2004 | WASHINGTON, DC
 From The Economist print edition

George Bush comes out worst in our poll of academic economists

WOULD John Kerry or George Bush do a better job stewarding America's 
economy? Judging by the polls, voters are not sure. Within the past 
couple of months both candidates have had narrow leads on the issue. 
Ask economics professors, however, and you get a clearer answer.

In an informal poll of 100 academics, conducted by The Economist, Mr 
Bush's policies win low marks. More than 70% of the 56 professors who 
responded to our survey rate Mr Bush's first-term economic policies as 
bad or very bad. Fewer than 20% give positive marks to Mr Bush's 
second-term economic agenda, and almost six out of ten disapproved. Mr 
Kerry hardly got rave reviews either, but his economic plan still fared 
better than the president's did. In all, four out of ten professors 
rated Mr Kerry's economic plan as good or very good, but 27% gave it 
negative scores. (The complete numbers are available at 

Are our economists partisans? We chose their names, at random, from 
among the referees of the American Economic Review, one of the 
profession's more prestigious publications. Conservatives often moan 
that university professors are all left-wingers. Though most of our 
professors claim they are not interested in working in Washington, 80% 
of those who would accept a policy job would prefer to work for Mr 
Kerry. However, even if you allow for some partisanship, the results 
are fairly striking.

A third of the economists reckon the economy is in good or very good 
shape; about half give a neutral response, and one in five deems the 
economy to be weak. They are almost equally split about how much 
responsibility the Bush administration deserves for the state of 
today's economy. Just over a third assign some or all credit or blame 
to the president; another third think he has had little or nothing to 
do with it.

Despite their diverse assessments of today's economy, the professors 
are overwhelmingly critical of the central plank of Mr Bush's economic 
policy—tax cuts. More than seven out of ten respondents say the Bush 
administration's tax cuts were either a bad or a very bad idea, and a 
similar proportion disapproves of Mr Bush's plans to make his tax cuts 
permanent. By contrast, Mr Kerry's plan to roll back the tax cuts for 
people with incomes over $200,000 wins the support of seven in ten of 
them. (This poll was taken before October 4th, when Mr Bush signed into 
law his fourth tax cut, which extended several popular components of 
earlier tax cuts that were due to expire at the end of this year, 
including the child tax credit.)

The broad condemnation of tax cuts seems to be linked to the 
professors' worries about America's fiscal health and the looming 
retirement of the baby-boom generation. Although Americans overall seem 
relatively unconcerned about the budget deficit, a large majority of 
the economists rate it as a serious problem for the economy, with 
almost one in five describing it as a crisis. And they back Mr Kerry by 
a large margin (79% to 18%) to do more to promote fiscal discipline 
than Mr Bush. In contrast, the boffins seemed much less concerned by 
the current-account deficit; only one respondent called it a crisis, 
and close to 20% deemed it either a small problem or no problem at all.

Health care also seems to be an issue that pushed our economists 
towards Mr Kerry. More than 70% of the academics reckoned health-care 
costs were a serious problem for the economy—and they preferred Mr 
Kerry's plans to control those costs by a margin of 59% to 25% (with 
the rest ducking the question).

There was some good news for Mr Bush on tax reform. More than 40% of 
the academics hail his plan to simplify the tax code as a good or very 
good idea—twice as many as think it bad or very bad. Mr Kerry's main 
tax-reform proposal—ending the ability of foreign subsidiaries of 
American firms to defer taxes on their profits—was less well received. 
Around a third of the professors thought that was a good or very good 
idea, a third were neutral, and a third thought it was a bad idea.

On entitlement reform, the academics' opinions are harder to interpret. 
They are evenly split on the merits of Mr Bush's proposal to reform 
Social Security by creating personal retirement accounts: 36% think it 
is a good or very good idea, 38% a bad or very bad idea. Oddly, most of 
them think Mr Kerry offers better plans for dealing with the 
baby-boomers' retirement, even though he has not actually made any 
concrete proposals for entitlement reform.

One area where the economists clearly favour Mr Bush is trade. Mr 
Kerry's ranting about outsourcing has irritated economists: a huge 
majority dismiss outsourcing as either a small or non-existent problem, 
and almost 60% give Mr Kerry's trade policy a bad or very bad rating. 
Although they are plainly not wild about Mr Bush's record on trade, 
they back him by a margin of almost two-to-one to do more to help free 
trade and globalisation than Mr Kerry would. 

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