The Gap between politics and economics

For all the recent talk about a unified nation there seem to be some undeniable rifts in opinion as of lately. First a brief comment on partisanship. As I already mentioned I’ve been watching the stimulus package committee meetings on CSPAN and they appear to be anything but bi-partisan or unified. Democrats and Republics seem at each others throats over where all this money is to be spent.
Economists also seem to be drawing lines in the sand. There are those who support the stimulus package (Brad Delong, etc) and those who don’t (everyone Brad Delong thinks is stupid).
Will Wilkinson has recently commented:

What arises in my mind is the strong suspicion that economic theory, as it is practiced and taught at the world’s leading institutions, is so far from consensus on certain fundamental questions that it is basically useless for adjudicating many profoundly important debates about economic policy.

I want to draw attention to the major rift between politics and economics if only to shift Wilkinsons accusation a bit. On the one hand we have economists – the specialists – those who supposedly know the most about the functioning or dysfunctional elements of the economy. They cannot agree whether the stimulus will be on net good or bad, enough or too much. Well that hasn’t stopped the political world from churning as it anyways would. While I agree the professional mainstream may be incapable of providing consensus on fundamental questions, I also think it is worth mentioning, crying, screaming – that the political process is in no way situated to accommodate discussion or insight on fundamental questions if they were so available. So what’s the incentive for consensus on fundamental issues to arise?

Stimulus committee

Last night I stopped the clicker on CSPAN for a while, it was one of the stimulus package committee meetings. Man these things are better drama then anything else that’s on TV!
There was some obvious tension across party lines. Democrats presented themselves as finally getting funding into desperately needy charities and welfare programs. Republicans seemed to be in the midst of changing strategies away from corporate tax cuts and towards infrastructure and public works programs. One of the main talking points was police salaries. Free markets were neither present nor spoken for. The new subtitle of the Obamanomics book is quite revealing. “How bottom-up economic prosperity will replace trickle down-economics.” Normally I like social orders characterized as bottom up, but I don’t think we mean the same thing. Neither party supports free markets and free trade, they are merely arguing where to spend – business or charity.