Writing over at National Review, Josh Barro of the Manhattan Institute makes the horrible mistake of writing what he really thinks: Washington is smart, and the rest of you people are imbeciles.
On almost all the major issues, Barro believes that the experts have it right.
While it contains a lot of errors, the Washington Consensus is right more often than it is wrong. Even more importantly, critiques of the Washington Consensus are wrong more of then than they are right—meaning that taking Washington Establishment down a peg will tend to do more harm than good.
The Tea Party? They are just people that would destroy Washington’s generally good monetary system. Occupy Wall Street? Don’t they know that the promise of unthinkable wealth drives growth? Let Barro explain:
There are numerous policy areas where the hegemony of the Washington Establishment is the only thing saving America from popular but terrible ideas—trade, immigration, foreign aid. But perhaps the best example is TARP. This is a program that looks better every day, having prevented an acute collapse of the financial system at very little cost. But in the popular mythology, TARP was a grievous and expensive error that created the Too Big To Fail concept, rather than simply recognising its existence.
The populist view of TARP as one of the largest errors of 2008 rather than an example of policy success makes believe a weakening of the establishment will throw out the baby and keep the bathwater. It’s much safer to try to improve the Washington Consensus than to unleash the public on the levers of power.
A government by and for the people? What a horror show that would be! However would the Republic continue to exist if it were to stop giving money to corrupt foreign governments? Get your grubby hands away from our beautiful state. We’re experts, if you can’t tell.
Barro might be right that the current populist solutions are worse than the problem. But the undertone of his piece: that the unwashed masses should be thanking Washington is galling.
That Barro would even write this post is evidence against its thesis. These “populists” on the left and right would not be raising hell if they were governed as well as he insists. Unemployment remains stuck over 9 per cent. Wages have stagnated for a generation, even as wealth accumulates at the top.
How are the keepers of the Washington Establishment doing? Quite well, actually. Consider Thomas Frank in the latest Harpers:
The D.C. metro area, when measured by median family income, is the richest in the nation. Six of the 10 most affluent counties in America are Washington suburbs. And thanks to the federal government — the gift that keeps on giving — recessions almost never happen here. In fact, D.C. real estate prices are actually going up
How could anyone possibly question the wisdom and beneficence of the Washington Establishment?
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