By Dave Andrusko
This is the last post of the day and, as such, will be brief. But brief does not mean either uninteresting or unimportant. Just the opposite.
Speaking back in April via Zoom, a top economist in the Obama administration offered what POLITICO headlined as “The general election scenario that Democrats are dreading.” Which is?
To quote Jason Furman, now a professor at Harvard, “We are about to see the best economic data we’ve seen in the history of this country.”
Reporters Ryan Lizza and Daniel Lippman continued.
“Everyone looked puzzled and thought I had misspoken,” Furman said in an interview. Instead of forecasting a prolonged Depression-level economic catastrophe, Furman laid out a detailed case for why the months preceding the November election could offer Trump the chance to brag — truthfully — about the most explosive monthly employment numbers and gross domestic product growth ever.
Since the Zoom call, Furman has been making the same case to anyone who will listen, especially the close-knit network of Democratic wonks who have traversed the Clinton and Obama administrations together, including top members of the Biden campaign.
Furman’s counterintuitive pitch has caused some Democrats, especially Obama alumni, around Washington to panic. “This is my big worry,” said a former Obama White House official who is still close to the former president. Asked about the level of concern among top party officials, he said, “It’s high — high, high, high, high.”
Much of the rest of the story, as you would expect (POLITICO is honeycombed with pro-Democrat writers), alternated between panic and the assurance that no matter how booming the economy may be, it will only be a “partial rebound.” As a result of the quarantine, millions and millions of people have lost their jobs and an untold number will never get them back. Likewise, many businesses are gone and will not return.
But that there will be a “booming” recovery was not in debate. The argument, POLITICO outlined, will be that there are still many people unemployed. But Furman, although an economist, not a politician, “had some strategic advice for the Biden campaign,” Lizza and Lippman conclude:
“Don’t make predictions that could be falsified. There are enough terrible things to say you don’t need to make exaggerated predictions,” he said. “The argument that we are in another Great Depression will look like it was overstated. Trump can say, ‘Two million deaths didn’t happen, Great Depression didn’t happen, we are making a lot of progress.’”
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