What kind of economic advice is Joe Biden getting?

Joe Biden’s economic policy seems to follow the same logic as that used by my 88-year-old mom’s circle of friends. These women are generally innumerate, despite having enjoyed elite educations, because they took their last math class in high school and, as stay-at-home wives, could enjoy afternoons at the theater rather than reviewing accounting reports or doing the other tedious stuff with numbers that is required to earn money. They believe that the U.S. has an infinite supply of wealth, partly because Asians are inferior to Americans in creativity and, therefore, cannot truly compete with us. Due to the fact that our wealth is infinite, there shouldn’t be any limit to what the government can spend. Any spending program that might help at least one American, therefore, should be approved.

Joe Biden seems to hold similar beliefs, but what about the professional economists who have been advising him on his Inflationary Journey? Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, must be one of the world’s leading experts on macroeconomics, right? Wikipedia says that his/her/zir/their degrees are in “politics” and law. I.e., there was no formal training in economics behind “Fed’s Powell says high inflation temporary, will ‘wane’” (AP, June 2021).

The Chair of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisors is Cecilia Rouse. In May 2021, she characterized inflation as “transitory” and “temporary” (Reuters). Here she is in June 2021 doubling down:

And then in December 2021… “Top Biden Economist: ‘I Really Do Believe’ Inflation Will Ease” (Bloomberg):

“As supply chains ease, as people get back to work, as we normalize our economy, the price pressures will start to ease,” said Rouse, who’s on leave from her post as a Princeton University economics and education professor.

Rouse called the coronavirus the biggest, ongoing threat to the U.S. economy — one that could upend Americans’ willingness to take jobs, travel and spend money on activities like dining out. It’s still too early to know the ways in which the new variant called omicron could affect the U.S. economy, she said.

(It is not politicians ordering lockdowns and school closures that are threats to the economy, but SARS-CoV-2 itself.)

She’s 58 years old so at least has the potential to not be senile. On the other hand, Cecilia Rouse seems to be a specialist in labor economics, a potentially irrelevant specialty given a country where the long-term trend is people preferring not to work:

Google Scholar shows this top advisor’s papers. A sampling:

  • “Orchestrating impartiality: The impact of blind auditions on female musicians” (possibly flawed; see also this critique)
  • “Diversity in the economics profession: A new attack on an old problem”
  • “Constrained after college: Student loans and early-career occupational choices”
  • “The Costs and Benefits of an Excellent Education for All of America’s Children” (Science says that the obvious answer is to close schools entirely for 12-18 months, particularly anywhere that Children of Color are to be found)

None of these seem to relate to the central questions of our day: Can the government borrow and/or print $31 trillion without causing hyperinflation? If everything that the government spends is indexed to inflation, can the government itself cause an inflation spiral?

Is it possible that the central planners are completely unqualified for the job that they’ve given themselves?

9 thoughts on “What kind of economic advice is Joe Biden getting?

  1. Macroeconomics isn’t a science. Although they’ve managed to hide it with a bunch of math and pretend it’s scientific, this is really “cargo cult” science. In addition, it’s no surprise that the pronouncements of economists usually support the interests of the wealthy people who employ them.
    All this US money printing won’t end well. Ask Zimbabwe or Nicaragua.

  2. “Joe Biden’s economic policy seems to follow the same logic as that used by my 88-year-old mom’s circle of friends.” Joe Biden is 80 years old so it makes sense!

  3. Janet Yellen does not quite have the required age, but her PhD in economics didn’t prevent her from being an inflation denier in 2021, when she said that “inflation only poses a small risk”.

    This was before the Russia sanctions, but after the S&P had been pumped up to nearly 5000 while no one was actually working.

  4. It’s all based on fudged numbers & the limited memory of the collective consciousness preventing us from seeing the total erasure of wealth that happens every 30 years. All it takes is implanting the right fictional vision in your head. No-one knows that rent was just $1000, 20 years ago.

  5. Look at your own last comment on this post:

    Ha ha, you thought $20T in debt as of 2017 was high! Well that was before the Trump years, and we have already hit your $30T goal after 4 years of the Trump presidency, not 10 years as predicted.

    I’ll take those blue trends every time, see the graph half way down the page:


  6. Has Cecelia Rouse graduated from high school yet? She’s 58 and has a cool sounding title, but in that video she sounds like she’s practicing her private school Senior Thesis. At least Joe surrounds himself with people who have fresh, young minds. Kudos to Princeton for their dedication to advancing the academic careers of young POC.

    I’m also impressed with her publications list! For someone so young, she’s definitely tuned into where someone she really KNOWS the future of academic peer review – which as our host once discerned – isn’t JUST a positive feedback mechanism to enshrine mediocrity!

    In actual fact – and this is really true – I once helped a.woman ‘earn’ her doctorate degree by writing 3/4ths of her dissertation without ever having attended a single graduate level course in her field of study. It was called: “Race, Class and Gender: Upward Mobility in America, A Review of The [redacted] Literature” because more than 20 years ago anyone with 1/2 a brain knew what the Shit Hot subjects were going to be.

    But this Rouse person. WHEW. She’s so far ahead of where I was!!!

    • Sorry, the sentence should read “definitely tuned i to the the future of academic peer review…”

      I am using a really terrible smartphone keyboard…

  7. @philg: Not Cecelia Rouse, but MSNBC’s Joy Reid said it yesterday on “Deadline: White House:”

    If doubling down doesn’t work, TRIPLE QUADRUPLE down:



    “MSNBC host Joy Reid said that the word “inflation” is “not part of the normal lexicon” for Americans, and that they are only concerned with the concept because Republicans have taught it to them for political gain.”

    The second link goes to the video. Shame on you, Philip! You’re not an economist OR a Journalist. Why are you teaching people the word “inflation” ??

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