Guest Contribution: “Bold Ideas are Not Always Better than Old Ideas”

Today, we present a guest post written by Jeffrey Frankel, Harpel Professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and formerly a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. A shorter version appeared in Project Syndicate on February 25th.

US Democrats are moving to the left, we are told.  It is not yet clear that the median voter is in fact moving left, nor the median congressman who was elected last November.  But it is clear that many of the candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are experimenting with “bold new ideas”, or at least bold rhetorical formulations.  They are receiving what seems a disproportionate amount of attention for doing so.  Many of the policy proposals, if interpreted literally, are not entirely practical, either economically or politically. 

Fortunately, few of the Democrats — the announced candidates or those considered likely — have yet committed irrevocably to extreme policies.  Any of them could build a campaign on solid practical proposals to address inequality and other pressing problems, without sacrificing economic growth or fiscal sustainability.  

Perhaps the practical ideas are most likely to be supported by established “moderates” like Joe Biden or centrists among the national newcomers like John Hickenlooper and Beto O’Rourke.  Or Michael Bloomberg.  But not just them. 

Democrats like Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, to name two, have long pushed for the practical ideas.  They made some important progress with these policies, in health insurance, financial regulation, progressive taxation, and other areas.  Often the progress has been blocked or reversed by Republicans.  There is no reason why newer faces like Amy Klobuchar cannot follow in the sensible Democratic path of Obama and Pelosi.  Or, for that matter, Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren.  [It is hard to  remember that a short time ago the talk was of a dearth of serious candidates!]

Ideas in 5 policy areas

What are these bold new ideas, and why are they less practical than some older ideas?

  1. Some Democrats have proposed a marginal income tax rate of 70% on the super-rich.  There exist more efficient and enforceable ways of improving the distribution of income.  Abolish the carried interest loophole.  Make work pay, by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Make the payroll tax more progressive.  Restore the estate tax on all estates worth, say, $5 million and eliminate the “step-up” of the valuation of the estate that allows generations to pass on capital gains without ever paying tax on them.  Reverse some of the other substantial Republican tax cuts for the rich as well, such as on capital gains.
  2. Some have proposed that the government pay for universal 4-year college.  This would be expensive, and not optimally designed to help the children of families that have been left behind by national economic growth.  In my view, an effective program toward equality of educational opportunity might start with universal quality pre-school, so that all students are able to make the most of their education later on. To be sure, we should also expand student grants for higher education (and expand support for public institutions), including not just 4-year colleges, but also 2-year programs and vocational training. 

    But the most urgent policy priority in higher education is pushing back the scam by those for-profit-colleges that leave gullible students with high student loan debt (at tax-payer expense) but show low rates of graduation or post-graduate employment.  Veterans are particular targets.  Democrats had achieved some appropriate reform of student debt; but they lost the upper hand when Donald Trump came to office and appointed Betsy DeVos Secretary of Education and neutered the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (originally the brainchild of Senator Warren).

  3. Some propose “Medicare for All.”  Americans should all want to continue the expansion of health care coverage rates that Obamacare achieved.  A good start would be reversing the damage that Republicans have worked to inflict on it (for example, with respect to pre-existing conditions and the universal mandate).  If “Medicare for All” were simply a slogan, understood to mean the addition of a public option for those who can’t get private health insurance, it would be a worthy initiative. 

    But Bernie Sanders — not a Democrat — has been clear that he intends the phrase to mean the elimination of private health insurance.  A single-payer system is fine – for other countries.  Most Americans do not react well when they understand that the proposal is to eliminate the private health care industry, to force the  many who are currently happy with their employer-paid plans to give them up, and to incur an enormous fiscal burden for the US taxpayer.  A recent poll by Morning Consult/Politico  reports that half of “Medicare for All” supporters change their minds when told that it would mean eliminating private insurance.

  4. Some have proposed a “Green New Deal.”  When the unemployment rate exceeded 8 % in 2009-2012, the United States could have used a larger and longer increase in government spending on environmental projects than what Obama was able to get past Congress.  Today, with unemployment under 4 percent, is not a good time to be expanding the budget deficit.  If the Green New Deal were interpreted as simply a rallying cry to mobilize support for strong action on climate change, then fine.  But the extreme impracticality of details of the Green New Deal is striking, such as the plan to expand renewable energy quite so far as to constitute 100% of electric power (evidently in an impossibly short span of 10 years), not to mention some of the extraneous parts of the package.  The efficient way to achieve climate change goals is not via a truly massive expansion of the size of government, but rather via the price mechanism, meaning either a carbon tax or tradable emission permits, together with other sensible steps.

  5. Some other new ideas are also not worth pursuing.  Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer recently proposed limiting firms from buying back their shares.  It is true that corporations have spent more of their big winnings from the December 2017 tax cut on share buybacks and dividends than on investment or workers. But the proper remedy is to broaden the corporate tax base and retroactively make the tax rate cut revenue-neutral, not ban buybacks, which would just divert firms’ extra profits into buying Treasury bills or other companies.

Bold ideas versus old ideas

Media, both mainstream and non-traditional, tend to pay disproportionate attention to the latest “bright, shiny objects.”  And, let’s be honest, it is the reading and viewing habits of we the people which are the source of this problem.  But just because a new idea seems more exciting than an older idea does not make it better.

There may be an analogy with the attention lavished on the pronouncements of candidate Trump in the last presidential election, but it only goes so far.  The left-leaning proposals coming from some of the Democrats this time differ from the Trump phenomenon in critical ways.  First, I am unaware of any economic malpractice on the left to compare with Republican claims that their tax cuts would pay for themselves, let alone the frequent outright falsehoods we have come to expect from this White House.  Second, the goal of helping lower-income workers seems to me a worthier one than the goal of helping the upper 1 percent.

Still, let us try to keep in mind the distinction between the passion with which a goal is pursued and the efficacy of the means chosen to pursue it.

This post written by Jeffrey Frankel.

33 thoughts on “Guest Contribution: “Bold Ideas are Not Always Better than Old Ideas”

  1. 2slugbaits

    Prof. Frankel nor the median congressman
    Given all of the women elected in 2018, your use of “congressman might not have been the best choice of words?

    I’m not sure that “Medicare for All” necessarily means elimination of private health insurance. Remember, people still need a private sector supplement for Part B and some kind of Part D coverage. It would surely be a much smaller share of the health insurance market, but I don’t know that it would eliminate private health insurance. And certainly Medicare Part A for All would probably be something that most people (and insurance companies) would support. The point is that there are lots of variants of “Medicare for All.”

    Regarding for-profit schools, you’re quite right in pointing out that those schools target veterans. If anyone doubts that, I recommend that they visit the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation office at any US Army base. You will be shocked at how many for-profit schools advertise there with obviously predatory and dishonest claims.

    The Green New Deal is a trickier matter. A carbon tax might be the best approach on the blackboard, but so far the public has been completely unwilling to accept the kind of large carbon taxes that would be required to make a significant dent in climate change. At some point politicians may just have to give up on optimal solutions and adopt drastic measures. The root problem is one of agency. The people most affected by climate change have almost no political voice, but the people most impacted by measures to control climate change have an outsized voice. Simon Wren-Lewis is a serious economist who is willing to consider the possibility that we might just have to accept ruinous deficits as the price we’ll have to pay in order to avoid ruinous climate change.

    And just to be clear, my preferred candidate has always been Joe Biden. I’d like to see a Biden/Klobuchar ticket or a Biden/Harris ticket.

  2. Moses Herzog

    Biden is too old in my book. I’m not a hypocrite like many of my democrat compadres are. I’m not going to give hell to Ronald Reagan for being senile (which he was, and worse) and give a pass to Biden at age 76. It’s laughable. How long ago was it that John McCain was on the campaign trail telling us his health was superb?? And let’s get another thing straight here while we’re on the topic. Joe Biden is not “running for his dead son Beau”. Joe Biden is running because he’s a self-righteous narcissist embarking on his 999th ego trip. PERIOD.

    I’d have some other thoughts to share for the more genteel-gender members of this Presidential candidates list, but I haven’t gotten my cue card or script in the mail yet. I know they are “tough” and they are “strong” and I know we’re not allowed to criticize “tough” and “strong” women. Beyond that I start to get very confused. Do we need to give female Presidential candidates a “safe space” on the campaign trail also?? Honestly wondering.

    I know, when we “groom” and “put through the fire” candidates in this way, the results go really amazingly:

    Has anyone sent Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s phone number to Klobuchar or Kamala Harris yet?? If we’re going to do things the same as 2016 then let’s do them RIGHT!!!!

    1. sammy


      It’s not English people saying this, it’s the UK Guardian, a main stream English media outlet. We all know how the elitist mainstream media sees Trump. Besides, who cares what any other foreign country thinks about America? Trump’s mission is to Make America Great Again, sometimes that comes at the expense of other countries. Of course they don’t like that. It’s every country looking out for their own best interest, that’s the way that it really actually is, and how it should be.

      1. pgl

        “Besides, who cares what any other foreign country thinks about America?”

        This is something Kimmie might say about North Korea. America the isolationist nation. What a great idea. Worked well for Cambodia under Pol Pot.

        Make America Great Again -Sammy? No – your agenda here is for us to be an isolationist backwards regime run by a nut case. Oh wait – we are already being run by a nut case. Sammy – time for you to declare Mission Accomplished!

      2. Moses Herzog

        @ Sammy
        OK, I’ll bite, I’m up for some laughs today. Sammy, who do you think purchases and/or gets internet subscriptions to The Guardian?? Are the 500,000+ paying subscribers a pack of “marauding” Antifa members and AOC supporters hiding along the Mexican border just south of El Paso?? Are they raping and pillaging our southern border with copies of The Guardian tucked in their back pocket?? Which imaginary boogeyman do you imagine supports that journalism in the free and democratic nation of England?? Are they conspiring together with the leaders of Germany, France, Canada, and Japan to destroy donald trump and MAGA??

        I guess all of this will be solved now that “Mexico is paying for” the fence renovations (oh excuse me, “Wall”) that a pregnant woman could conquer with a half-way decent ladder?? What did Rush Limbaugh spoon-feed you this morning Sammy?? I’m really hard up for laughs lately, so lay it on me.

  3. Moses Herzog

    Watching some white haired dude give an address in Wisconsin right now. Interesting stuff. He’s not real dynamic, but he’s saying the right things at least.

  4. Julian Silk

    Dear Folks,

    You could do 100% renewable energy right now. But you would have to have batteries, (unless you make a massive investment in pumped storage, of which there is no sign right now), and it would be unbelievably expensive, given the current state of lithium-ion battery technology. You would also be destroying the fossil fuel industries, and leaving people in West Virginia and Oklahoma and Kansas and Wyoming and Utah very badly hurt. They would vote against this, as was evident in 2016. Whether it was “Après moi, le déluge”, or not, as long as you allow voting and an Electoral College, you will get this. How, exactly, do the proponents of the Green New Deal plan to compensate these people?


  5. Julian Silk

    P.S. Let me just add, however, that the carbon tax Professor Frankel likes would discriminate very badly against the same rural people who would be hurt by the Green New Deal, and I will try to give a talk at the Eastern Economics Association on Sunday to explain why. To summarize it for a bumper sticker, it is that the real aim of the carbon tax is to motivate new investment, and no feasible tax in finite time can do this in a way that is fair to rural consumers without a lot of adjustment, which is never considered. So targeted investments, such as the Texas investment in transmission, and conceivably payments for home investment are better and more effective.

    1. pgl

      You clearly have not read the bipartisan economist letter supporting a Carbon Tax with a refund apportioned to each person equally. Try reading it so your EEA talk will be better informed (I hope).

    2. 2slugbaits

      Julian Silk the carbon tax Professor Frankel likes would discriminate very badly against the same rural people who would be hurt by the Green New Deal

      I don’t see this. For one thing, rural America is already overrepresented in Congress (especially the Senate) and the Electoral College, so I won’t shed too many tears if their interests get trimmed a bit. For another thing, I don’t see why it’s inherently unfair for folks who emit the most carbon to pay the most carbon tax. If rural America emits the most CO2 per capita than the rest of the country, then rural America should pay more per capita. For a third thing, rural America tends to be older than urban America, which tells me that rural America has less of a stake in the consequences of carbon emission. Why? Because they’ll be dead and beyond caring. For example, there are rural counties in which over 25% of the population is age 65 or over. Why should that demographic get the same political attention as the younger demographic that will actually have to live with the consequences of global warming? There’s a lot of talk about fairness for rural America, but what about generational fairness? Rural populations can always move if they feel policies are unfair; generations don’t have the luxury of choosing when they’re born. For a fourth thing, rural America tends to have a lot of open land suitable for wind farms and solar energy. The GND would seem to offer economic opportunities for rural America beyond the usual habit of overproducing corn and soybeans and then bitching endlessly down at the local diner about low prices. Finally, most carbon tax proposals include something close to a 100% rebate, which would be progressive. That would seem to benefit poorer, rural areas.

  6. Bruce Hall

    This is not meant as a snide remark, but I’m not sure I understand the vision and means to implement it that the New Democrats seem to hold dear. There seem to be a lot of contradictory and one-sided values being expressed that I find confusing and perhaps that is the point of it all.

    • we must protect the safety of our children; we must have “choice” until birth; the death penalty is immoral
    • women must be protected against sexual harassment; women should be free to express their sexuality in as many ways as possible; masculinity is toxic; gender is what you believe it to be
    • we need to have more guarantees and free “stuff”; we need to raise taxes to pay for the free stuff; income should be redistributed, but not achievements; the wealthy should pay more because they don’t pay enough despite the preponderance of taxes being paid by the wealthy
    • minorities are inherently victims and more minority groups are continually being defined; majorities are inherently oppressors unless they are a coalition of minorities; white males are de facto oppressors regardless of background and economic circumstances
    • border walls are immoral; those in the U.S. illegally must be protected from U.S. immigration law; we need more money to address drug addiction from drugs coming in from foreign countries; ICE should be disbanded; DHS should be disbanded; we need more immigrants, but skills and contribution doesn’t matter
    • we need renewable energy because fossil fuels cause global warming; we need more lithium mining for clean energy; we should be 100% renewable energy based in 10 years, but that excludes organic renewables

    There are more, but those seem illustrative. It all seems to be a hodgepodge of “wants” that have no common thread in reality.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Bruce Hall: Well, I’d say some of these seem far off, sorta like in the past saying everybody should get equal access to the vote, it shouldn’t be legal to treat some people like property, etc.

      1. Bruce Hall

        Menzie, I’d say some of these seem far off. “These” being what specifically?

        • The first point addresses the value of life. Why is a born child’s life more valuable than one about to be born? Why is a killer’s life more valuable than a child about to be born? (as an aside, Chelsea Clinton made an ironic comment about her grandmother not having a “choice” about keeping her unborn child)
        • The second point addresses sexuality, gender, and bias against males that seems to presume inherent male nefariousness.
        • The third point addresses what is economically “fair” in terms of who gets and who pays (if rent seeking is defined as “seeking to increase one’s share of existing wealth without creating new wealth”, then those who rail against “rent seekers” should not be directing their wrath toward innovators and producers who become wealthy, but those who demand a portion of that wealth because they don’t have it). One source claims that innovators, on average, keep only ≈2% of the wealth their innovations generate:
        • The fourth point addresses what is a proper and what is an oppressive majority.
        • The fifth point addresses the value of citizenship and the confirmation of our border integrity.
        • The sixth point addresses energy sources and the non-interchangeability of sources for our economic and operational needs, the definition of what is acceptable pollution, and the idea that “acceptable” renewable energy sources are environmentally friendly (e.g., is mining lithium cleaner than tapping natural gas?).

        As I wrote, my perception is that the far left agenda tends to be somewhat contradictory (or at least inconsistent) and based on a shotgun pattern of wants rather than realistic or beneficial (to all) policies. I won’t say that the agenda (or specific points) doesn’t appeal to some because it is evident that it does. But it seems, to me, in many aspects more like a zero sum game than a workable and beneficial plan for all our citizens.

        1. 2slugbaits

          Bruce Hall Thanks for providing the link to the NBER paper. There are some problems with the paper, which might explain why it never got beyond the working paper stage. I’ll just highlight a few of the problems. One striking problem is with Figure 1 on page 8. This is supposed to represent how an innovator captures temporary rents. Notice that the price goes down and the quantity increases. That’s very strange behavior for an entity with temporary monopoly power that inserts itself into a formerly perfectly competitive market. He describes this price setting on page 7. The key variable is his “appropriability ratio”, which he guesstimates as 0.07. None of that describes how an entity with temporary monopoly power would set prices and output. Not even close. So this is just wrong. If you look at how he derives the 0.07 number it’s clear that he is taking a long run average over the life of the innovation, which he then decays according to an exponential decay model. But that’s not how things really work. In the real world someone with a temporary monopoly would maximize profits according to the price elasticity of demand and reduce output. The innovation depreciation parameter would not follow an exponential model, but would be closer to a “one hoss shay” depreciation that goes to zero when the patent or copyright expires. He comes up with the 0.20 depreciation parameter as an artifact of the way he estimates from macro data and not from micro data. In fact, he seems to be aware of this problem because he notes that Big Pharma is an example of an industry that does not follow his simple model.
          Another problem is that he assumes a constant returns to scale model, which is strange since he specifically cites Paul Romer’s famous paper on endogenous technological growth theory. One of Romer’s key arguments is that endogenous technological growth implies increasing returns rather than constant returns.
          Yet another problem concerns the timeframe he examines, which runs from 1948 thru 2001. Most of the concerns with growing inequality and monopoly rents are since 2001. You can see this in the change in BEA’s factor shares, with a sharp increase in returns to capital and a corresponding decrease in returns to labor. For a long time it was always one-third capital and two-thirds labor. That’s how it was for decades…almost a natural law. No more. A lot of today’s concerns aren’t with temporary Schumpeterian profits after finding a better way to make a widget. Today’s concern has to do with stronger copyright and patent protections. This is important because the paper specifically assumes very weak copyright and patent protections…in fact, that’s really what his exponential depreciation factor is all about! So his paper is really arguing that weak copyright and patent protections are an important way to ensure consumers capture surplus value…which is entirely consistent with standard economic theory even if it is not consistent with Republican talking points. Today’s concerns also include the ability of superstar managers to capture corporate profits in the form of high executive compensation, which would not show up as Schumpeterian profits to shareholders, but would still derive from rent-seeking behavior of executives. Think of Big Bank and Big Pharma executives.
          The paper also ignores how today’s rent-seeking depends on product differentiation rather than technical innovation. It’s all about the branding. In terms of Figure 1 in the paper, this means the slope of the demand curve is steeper and shifts outward. None of that is accounted for in the paper. There are plenty of other problems, but this is already too long. Besides, even the author admits that many will find his conclusions as implausible…and I’m not sure he entirely believes his conclusions either.

    2. pgl

      Who are you quoting here? You provide no link, no citation, just drivel which appears to be written by Roger Stone on your behalf.

    3. pgl

      “women must be protected against sexual harassment; women should be free to express their sexuality in as many ways as possible; masculinity is toxic; gender is what you believe it to be”.

      My oh my. I see Bruce went on another date that ended badly.

    4. Willie

      Skip the straw men and talking points like “free stuff” and maybe there’s an answer.

      1. Bruce Hall

        Well, Willie, it started with free smartphones under Obama and now it’s escalated to free college educations (might we at least put a limit on the number of years and majors?). When does “daddy” stop paying your way? Feel free to dispute any “straw men” you perceive.

        But let me help you with the first point:
        Note that I’m not attributing specific attitudes to all Democrats, but merely to a large majority. Some Republicans share those attitudes, but to a much lesser degree.

        I’ll trust you are capable of examining the rest.

        1. 2slugbaits

          Bruce Hall The free smartphones for seniors program initiated under Obama was an extension of the free land line for seniors program initiated under Reagan. In this case it’s not “daddy” paying the bill, but daddy’s grandchild.

          As to a free college education, keep in mind that even those who support it are only talking about public universities. There is almost universal support for free K-12 education. The argument for free K-14 education is only an extension of a principle already widely accepted. And so it goes with free K-16 education. I don’t think it’s an outrageously wrong argument to say that in tomorrow’s world people will need much more than a 12th grade education. How much more is something about which reasonable people can differ, but there is no obvious reason why it should be restricted to 12th grade just because that was satisfactory 75 years ago. And don’t forget that California had free public college education and that seemed to work out okay. Personally I am not in favor of a completely free university undergraduate education, but it shouldn’t cost as much as it does. The economic factor inputs needed to teach English or calculus or undergraduate physical sciences or social sciences aren’t all that different from what they were 50 years ago…or even 150 years ago. You basically need a classroom, textbooks and a competent teacher. So why does it cost so much more (even after accounting for shrinking state budget contributions) than it did 50 years ago given no significant change in the factor inputs needed to produce an undergraduate? My sense is that a major factor driving up the cost of an undergraduate education is what it takes to maintain an elite (or elite wannabee) graduate education. I have to believe that overpriced undergraduate courses are subsidizing underpriced graduate programs. Universities seem to be in a kind of “Hunger Games” environment. They have to bid up salaries to attract superstar faculty and expand non-academic facilities (e.g., athletic and recreational equipment, conference centers, special student services, etc.) in order to attract students of wealthy parents. It’s a kind of survival of the fittest death spiral.

          1. Bruce Hall

            2slug, your response was well formulated and thoughtful. I agree that for those seeking a “white collar” or academic career, a high school education is quite inadequate and has been for awhile. I also agree that the cost of a college education has become unreasonable … far outstripping the overall inflation rate. I would add that there appear to be far too many “wasted” educations… narrowly focused with not much opportunity for employment (BA in archaeology perhaps). Certainly as you wrote, the majority of athletic programs are subsidized by the football (and maybe basketball) program which itself may be subsidized by the general tuition fees. And the “research” and graduate programs are mainly cost centers.

            The question is: what is the appropriate role of government in education beyond high school? Perhaps a focus on merit scholarships in STEM. Perhaps subsidized post-high school technical training schools. Perhaps subsidized tuition for two years for non-STEM majors (although this may have far less economic return than supporting STEM, but could be argued to support the “quality” of the population. At some point, however, the subsidy train needs to slow down. My comment about “daddy” was, obviously, metaphorical for “daddy government”. Your point about grandchildren paying the bill might be accurate, but so far it’s just gone on “daddy’s” credit card with unlimited credit on low revolving payments.

          2. XO

            I think it is due to the rise of mini-deans. There has been a huge increase in overpaid middle-level deans of universities. These people have titles such as the Associate Vice Provost for Student Enrichment. They make six figure salaries, plus have office staff and a large budget. I am really skeptical of what value they actually add though. These positions and offices did not exist 20 years, at least not at the same level. See:


  7. Manfred

    Oh my goodness, typical Harvard fluff. One would expect better from a Harvard guy, PhD in Economics, teaching at a “School of Government”. But well, it’s Harvard.
    As for Point 1: why is carried interest a loophole? Quoting the Daily Beast does not do, a Harvard Prof should know better. Give me an objective academic study – but I know, that is too much to expect in Harvard. Expand the Estate Tax? Why exactly? What exactly would it do for redistribution? How many poor people would be better off? Is there an objective academic study? And then, capital gains taxation – I seem to remember that it was a Democratic President with a Democratic Treasury secretary (a Harvard Guy! and President of the Harvard Guys and Gals!) that reduced the capital gains taxation and dividend taxation. Why did they do this? Because they understood (miracle of miracles) that investment drives productivity. What a concept – Jeff, our beloved Harvard Guy, evidently does not get it.
    As for Point 2: the Harvard Guy could not resist an attack on Betsy de Vos; she is trying hard to correct many wrongs in academia, including Title IX abuses, but I know, Harvard Guys do not give a crap about that. They are above the fray. As for Lizzie Warren’s (a Harvard Gal!) pet government agency, many people share the view that it is unconstitutional and should be abolished. But I know, for Harvard Guys (and Gals) that little book written buy old white men 200 years ago does not mean much. And as for student debt, yes, there are issues and problems, but Jeff… your salary comes from those as well – and the big fat swollen endowment that Harvard has, is fed in part (not all of course) from student debt as well. So – I propose that Harvard, being SO preoccupied with student debt, completely dissolve its 40 Billion endowment, give it to the poor and pay off lots of student debt. How about that? And how about the fact that the Harvard Endowment start paying taxes – say a 20% tax on its yearly earnings? And give that money to the poor. Because Harvard Guys (and Gals!) are so worried about the poor.
    As for Point 3: oh yes, the individual mandate, that is the crux, right? Never mind that the whole Obamacare experiment was a failure from the get go, with or without the individual mandate. But I know, those horrible Republicans, they eliminated it, and thus they are the culprits of everything wrong in the US health care market. Never mind that the problems in the US health care market could be elsewhere – for example, on the supply side. John Cochrane (I know, saying this name is like saying “Lord Voldemort” to this blog and to Harvard Guys (and Gals!)) has an excellent piece called “After the ACA”. I know, I know, it is all right wing garbage for Harvard Guys and Gals.
    As for Point 4: Jeff – are you serious? You a Harvard Guy, PhD Economics, teaching at an aristocratic school, funded with student debt, and you do not say plainly that the “Green New Deal” is complete garbage? You, Jeff, cannot get it together and decry the Green New Deal for what it is, complete and utter cow dung? But again, this is coming from a Harvard Guy.
    As for Point 5: I actually agree with Jeff, the Harvard Guy, which makes me nervous, but ok, in the interest of bipartisanship, I agree with Jeff the Harvard Guy.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Manfred: You’re decrying Professor Frankel’s view when your level of analysis consists of this rant?

      Why drop the ACA?
      Because of liberty, because of free markets, because of competition, because of freedom of choice among many plans, that may or may not be the liking of techno-bureaucrats in Washington and at MIT.
      I know that talk like this is anathema to many in this blog.
      The ACA is suddenly popular? Of course, many people want free stuff, they like their Medicaid subsidies, they like the subsidies to their plans, all paid by “somebody else”.
      Unfortunately, this mindset of free stuff combined with an anti-liberty attitude is becoming very pervasive in Econ academia, especially in some “Public Policy” Schools.

    2. 2slugbaits

      Manfred Expand the Estate Tax? Why exactly? What exactly would it do for redistribution?

      I don’t know the extent to which a higher estate tax would redistribute wealth, but the usual reason for a higher estate tax is one of economic efficiency. Another reason is that a higher estate tax tends to have a positive labor supply effect. If you’re a supply side kind of guy, then you should support a higher estate tax.

      Is there an objective academic study?

      Yes. Several. Go do some research.

      the whole Obamacare experiment was a failure

      How would you know? Are you getting insurance through the exchanges or from your employer? Or are you taking your cue from Rick Stryker, Jr. and shifting the cost of your healthcare onto the rest of us? Or are you trying to tell us that people were better off without any health insurance before the ACA was implemented? That’s a tough argument to make. As to John Cochrane’s comments, just because we might also have to look at the “supply side” of healthcare costs does not mean we shouldn’t also deal with the health insurance side of things as well. Obamacare wasn’t intended to fix every problem with American healthcare.

  8. Erik Poole

    This ‘guest contribution’ drips with condescension and is remarkable for its ability to frame issues with strawman options. (Should that be straw person options?)

    1. Moses Herzog

      For the record, I do not agree with everything Professor Frankel says, I would roughly gauge I agree with him about 80%–85% of the time, with some rare strong disagreements. But most of Mr Frankel’s thoughts and arguments are well laid out. And I am exceedingly grateful Menzie seeks out those guest contributor views, and exceedingly grateful they agree to contribute directly to the blog. It is a gift for all readers here, and Menzie is awesome in his selections.

      However, If I was to be super nit-picky to Menzie, I would say in very whiny, babyish tones unbecoming of an adult male my age “Waaaah!!! Waaaaahaaahaaaa!!! When will you get Gita Gopinath on the blog to contribute???” <<—–don't ask me how this video relates to anything I just said, it's just some mental problems I have.

      1. Menzie Chinn Post author

        Moses Herzog: Professor Frankel is kind enough to contribute to Econbrowser as a favor to one of his former students. I’ve got no such leverage with Prof. Gopinath.

        1. Moses Herzog

          Hahahaha, thanks for humoring me with the response. Can you blame me?? A sick perv has to try you know.

          I like to joke because, well because. Just because. But she is very sharp, it would be so cool to see her post here. I like to be silly about that stuff, but to be where she is with her background, really, how can anyone not look at that with awestruck admiration?? But I am aware IMF Research Director makes that unrealistic on many fronts. Just, you know, wedge those requests in when you get the chance. One never knows.

  9. Moses Herzog

    You know you either live a “charmed life” or an incredibly sad one, when you live in the south and you’re watching a good portion of this on a Thursday night. I’ll let the commenters here decide which of the two stratums I am most likely to reside in:

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