16 December 2011

Newt Wit

The narrative on Newton Elroy Gingrich is that the man - for all his flaws - is very intelligent. More important than whether you believe that is the fact that Newt so obviously does. He trusts his own intelligence so much and the intelligence of others so little that he envisions a world where he is more dictator than president. This alone is enough to fear the consequence of his supposed intelligence. Worse, what he says suggests that he is not really that smart.

Could anything more clearly demonstrate how muddled his thinking than his stance on the judiciary and Federal Reserve? Sadly, pointing out the flaws in Newt's thinking requires explanations of longer than 2 minutes, which probably ensures his safety from any scrutiny in this age of media sponsored attention deficit disorder. But if you have five minutes ....

Let's start with the economy and what that implies for the Federal Reserve. There are only two ways that the government can influence the economy: through monetary or fiscal policy.

Monetary policy has to do with setting interest rates, growing or contracting the money supply, and changing banking regulations so as to make it easier or harder to get credit. Get this wrong and you can trigger a recession or inflation. The Fed is in charge of monetary policy.

Fiscal policy has to do with taxes and spending. Congress and the president are in charge of this and change it with their budgets and tax laws.

As it now works, the Federal Reserve Chairman (Bernanke now, Greenspan before) is in charge of monetary policy. He does not have to mediate negotiations between Republicans and Democrats or face the risk of presidential veto. He simply adjusts monetary policy based on his professional judgment about what is best for the economy. Politics does not enter into it.This makes his ability to respond to economic issues relatively easy and quick.

By contrast, fiscal policy has almost everything to do with politics and nearly nothing to do with economics.  Chronic deficits are more product of Congress's political judgment than their economic judgment and any changes in tax rates or budgets result from prolonged and difficult negotiations between two very different parties.

So, what is Newt's solution to the "problem" of the Fed's independence from politics? He would fire the Fed Chairman. The impact of this, of course, is that it would make Fed Chairmen - and thus monetary policy - as politically driven as fiscal policy is now. The impact of that? Well imagine a world in which both tools of economic influence were subject to political ideologies and perceptions with little regard for economic realities. Imagine, that is, the Federal Reserve as ineffective as Congress.

Newt also wants to fire judges who disagree with him, even close entire courts that make rulings that he finds offensive. Not only is this an egregious attack on the separation of powers, it again suggests that even rulings on the interpretation of law would be subject to the political nonsense that has resulted in a single-digit approval rating for Congress.

Newt's reasoning skills are flawed and his mind continually distracted from considering consequences with the allure of shiny new thoughts. How anyone can conclude that "at least Newt's smart" escapes me.

In last night's debate, in defense of his inane idea to close courts with which he disagreed, Newt said that Thomas Jefferson did something similar. The proper response to that is, "I've read Jefferson. You, Newton Elroy, are no Thomas Jefferson."

No comments: