Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Siphoning Off the Increment to Pay for More Excrement

Paul Krugman rightly excoriates the "carbonized Keynesianism" of the Republican rationale for the Keystone XL pipeline. As I replied to Barkley a few days ago, however, calling it "Keynesianism" is a misnomer. Kalecki had another name for it. I would prefer "Keyserlingering."

Sandwichman has been connecting the dots between Keystone pipe dreams, dynamic scoring of tax cuts and the genesis of pseudo-Keynesian multiplier aberrations in the top secret Cold War doctrine of NSC-68.

1950 was a watershed year for the alchemy of "transmuting excrement into increment." Academic economists, Paul Samuelson and John Maurice Clark said it couldn't (or shouldn't) be done. But the chairman of President Truman's Council of Economic Advisers, Leon Keyserling, had other ideas:
...if a dynamic expansion of the economy were achieved, the necessary build-up could be accomplished without a decrease in the national standard of living because the required resources could be obtained by siphoning off a part of the annual increment in the gross national product.
In his article on "Evaluation of Real National Income" Samuelson had explained that including "such wasteful output as war goods" in the calculation of national income served only to indicate the potential for producing "useful things... in better times." NSC-68 contrived counting wasteful output as a direct contribution to maintaining the standard of living. This is the logic the Republicans employ when they extol the job-creating magic of Keystone. But, more subtly, it is also the logic William Nordhaus employs when discounting the net present value of the future costs and benefits of climate regulation.

Exorcising the weaponized, carbonized, dynamically-scored Republican pipe dreams will take more than pointing out the meagerness and hypocrisy of their job-creation claims. It requires a ruthless critique of the lingering Cold War growthmanship that is deeply embedded in the economic conventional wisdom across the political spectrum.