Hyping Boehner's "150 Economists," Media Ignore That Many Have History Of Dubious And Extreme Claims


Several media outlets have reported on a letter sent by House Speaker John Boehner to President Obama signed by "150 economists" who support Boehner's spending cut proposal. But these media outlets have ignored that many of the economists who signed the letter have made baseless predictions in the past, some have endorsed dubious theories, and others have used extreme rhetoric to attack Obama and other Democrats.

Media Report On "150 Economists" Backing Boehner's Spending Cuts Proposal

Reuters: "150 Economists Back Republicans In Debt Fight." A June 1 Reuters article headlined, "150 economists back Republicans in debt fight" reported that "[m]ore than 150 economists back House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner's call to match any increase in the debt limit with spending cuts of equal size, according to a letter released by the Republican leader's office on Wednesday." [Reuters, 6/1/11]

Wash. Post: "More Than 150 Economists Have Signed A Statement Supporting" Boehner. A June 1 Washington Post blog post stated: "More than 150 economists have signed a statement supporting House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) call for spending cuts at least equal to the amount by which Congress raises the country's debt ceiling this year, a figure that could total trillions of dollars." [Washington Post, 6/1/11]

Politico: "Speaker Boehner Releases Statement Signed By 150+ Economists, Backing His Call In NYC For Spending Cuts." Politico reported on June 1: "AS HOUSE GOP heads to White House for closed-press East Room meeting with POTUS, Speaker Boehner releases statement signed by 150+ economists, backing his call in NYC for spending cuts that exceed any increase in the debt limit." [Politico, 6/1/11, emphasis in original]

NY Times: Boehner "Issued A Statement Signed By 150 Economists Backing House Republicans." In a June 1 blog post, The New York Times reported: "In advance of a White House meeting with President Obama, Speaker John A. Boehner on Wednesday issued a statement signed by 150 economists backing House Republicans in rejecting an increase in the federal debt limit without corresponding spending cuts." [The New York Times, 6/1/11]

But Many Of The "150 Economists" Have Made Baseless Predictions, Endorsed Dubious Theories

At Least 46 Economists From Boehner's List Signed Letter Calling 2003 Bush Tax Cuts "Fiscally Responsible." The following economists signed both Boehner's letter and a 2003 letter to George W. Bush calling the Bush tax cuts "fiscally responsible:

Stacie Beck

Bruce Bender

Michael Boskin

Donald R. Booth

Phillip Bryson

Todd G. Buchholz

Samantha Carrington

John Cogan

John P. Cochran

Coldwell Daniel

Ronnie H. Davis

Stephen J. Dempsey

John B. Egger

Frank Falero

June O'Neill

Dave Garthoff

Earl L. Grinols

Stephen Happel

Kevin Hassett

Joel Hay

Larry Lindsey

Robert Tamura

David Malpass

Michael L. Marlow

Allan Meltzer

James C. Miller III

John E. Murray

George R. Neumann

Seth W. Norton

Lee Ohanian

Richard W. Rahn

Christine P. Ries

Raul H. Rubin

Gary J. Santoni

Thomas R. Saving

Robert Haney Scott

William Shughart II

James F. Smith

Clifford F. Thies

Leo Troy

Richard Vedder

Michael E. Williams

Michael Wohlgenant

Gary Wolfram

Gene C. Wunder

Benjamin Zycher

As Media Matters has noted, contrary to the claim that the Bush tax cuts were "fiscally responsible," economists have stated that the Bush administration's tax policies failed to make the economy grow faster and contributed to a decline in median household income. [Speaker Boehner letter, 6/1/11; The White House, 2/12/03; Media Matters, 8/9/10]

William F. Shughart II: Making Abortions More Costly Is A Way To Reduce Them Because "Women Can Also Choose Whether Or Not To Risk Becoming Pregnant." An article in the Cato Journal co-written by William Shughart II stated:

But few abortions are in fact performed to save the life of the mother; even fewer are performed to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. In modern society, the procedure of abortion is simply used to terminate unwanted pregnancies for many women. Bitter opposition to any proposal that would restrict in any way a woman's ''right to choose'' suggests that this is so. And if many abortion- minded women are in fact searching for an inexpensive way of disposing of an unwanted child-using abortion as a kind of foolproof birth control device-laws that make abortions less [sic] costly should reduce the number of abortions and, perhaps, the number of unwanted pregnancies as well. (Although the abortion debate focuses exclusively on a woman's decision to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, women can also choose whether or not to risk becoming pregnant in the first place.)


Our analysis suggests that abortion rates have fallen because fewer women are choosing to become pregnant and, among those who do, fewer are choosing to have abortions. Hence, if, in President Clinton's words, one wants abortions to be ''safe, legal, and rare,'' laws making them more costly are a way of promoting that goal. [Cato Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1998; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

John Cogan: "It's Wrong To Allow Surpluses." The New York Times reported in 2003 of one of the signatories who signed the letter in support of Boehner: "John F. Cogan, a Hoover fellow, was a top official in the Office of Management and Budget in the Reagan and first Bush administrations and probably could have been the current president's budget director if he had wanted the job. He put the case this way: 'It is wrong to allow surpluses because these surpluses invariably lead to higher spending. Governments simply cannot hang onto money.'" [New York Times, 2/9/03; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

Kevin Hassett: Author Of Book Predicting Dow Jones Industrial To Climb To 36,000. In 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported of another economist who signed Boehner's letter:

Kevin Hassett, co-author of the 1999 book "Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting From the Coming Rise in the Stock Market," says criticism of his book isn't something he's lost a lot of sleep over. He is now an economics adviser to Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed yesterday at 11230.73.

"I think that it's important for public discourse for people to be willing to take clear positions," he says. "You can be negative and be wrong year after year and somehow it doesn't create angry critics, but if you're optimistic and incorrect the response is much more vocal." [Wall Street Journal, 9/10/08; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

Allan H. Meltzer: "Investment Banks Don't Need The [Federal Reserve] To Regulate Them." In a July 2008 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Meltzer wrote: "Investment banks don't need the Fed to regulate them. Some clear rules on capitalization would suffice." [Wall Street Journal, 7/16/08, via American Enterprise Institute; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

Judy Shelton: "Now Is The Time To Challenge The Exclusive Monopoly Of Federal Reserve Notes As Currency." In 2009, Shelton wrote in the Wall Street Journal: "Now is the time to challenge the exclusive monopoly of Federal Reserve notes as currency. Buyers and sellers, by mutual consent, should have access to an alternate means for settling accounts; they should be able to do business using a monetary unit of account defined in terms of gold. The existence of parallel currencies operating side-by-side on an equal legal footing would make it clear whether people had more confidence in fiat money or money redeemable in gold. If the gold-based system is preferred, it means that people fully understand that the purpose of money is to facilitate commerce, not to camouflage fiscal mismanagement." [Wall Street Journal, 2/11/09; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

Charles W. Baird: Unionizing Will Send Public University Into "Academic Mediocrity Or Worse." In a 2008 article posted on the Foundation for Economic Education blog The Freeman, Baird wrote: "The faculty at Montana State University in Bozeman will soon vote on whether to unionize. If a majority vote yes, the school will gradually descend into academic mediocrity or worse." [Foundation for Economic Education, 6/1/08; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

James C. Miller III: Homelessness Not The Problem Of The Federal Government. From a 1986 The New York Times article:

The director of the Office of Management and Budget said today that the homeless of America were a problem for state and local governments, not for the Federal government.

In testimony before the House Budget Committee, James C. Miller 3d, the budget director, added that ''there are a number of grants we have'' to help local governments with programs for the homeless. But when he named one, the Community Services Block Grant, he was told by a Democratic member of the committee that the Reagan Administration had proposed eliminating this grant in its budget for the fiscal year 1987, which was prepared under Mr. Miller's supervision.

Before now, statements by President Reagan and his aides, have fueled criticism of the Administration attitude toward the homeless. The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated in May 1984 that 250,000 to 350,000 people were homeless in America, a figure critics said was low. [New York Times, 2/19/86, via Lexis; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

Paul H. Rubin: Nothing Wrong With Drug Companies Giving Gifts To Doctors (But "I Consult For The Drug Industry"). In Forbes, Rubin wrote:

What's the matter with Americans? They think there is something incestuous about the connection between drug companies and doctors.

Politicians tell them that the drugmakers wine and dine physicians while pushing the latest antibiotic or statin. Utterly corrupted, doctors impose those medications on patients, whether or not the drugs are better than cheaper alternatives.

A pending U.S. Senate bill would require drug companies to report gifts to doctors of more than $25; the House is investigating marketing practices. New York State's legislature plans to hold hearings this year on the relationship between doctors and drug companies. One congressional critic has even compared the drug industry with the tobacco industry, and Senator John McCain has called drugmakers the "bad guys."

What drugs are these legislators taking? Drug company reps offer overworked doctors useful, lifesaving information in an efficient manner. The drug companies are of course motivated by profit, but economists have known since Adam Smith that the profit motive is the best way to induce someone to do something useful. (Disclosure: I consult for the drug industry from time to time, most recently for Pfizer.) [Forbes, 2/25/08; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

King Banaian Is A Republican Member Of Minnesota Legislature Who Believes Stem Cell Research Is "Human Cloning." As the Washington Independent reported:

A ban on somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), a technique used in some forms of stem cell research, passed the House and Senate floors on Tuesday evening in a pair of higher education budget bills. The bills would prohibit state or federal funding from going toward SCNT stem cell research. The two bills are headed to conference committee, where the two bodies will hash out the parts of the bills that differ. Gov. Mark Dayton indicated in a letter to legislators that he would veto a bill that contained the stem cell bans, citing them as policy issues that don't belong in budget bills.

In the House, Rep, King Banaian (R-St. Cloud) moved to amend the higher education bill with language banning SCNT, calling it "human cloning." "This is simply concerned with the funding of research into this. It is not an outright ban," he said on the floor. "It does not ban a state institution doing it if it was able to find private funding to do so." [Washington Independent, 3/30/11; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

Several Of Boehner's "150 Economists" Have Used Extreme Rhetoric To Attack Obama, Other Democrats

Benjamin Zycher: Michelle Obama Is The Product Of "Affirmative-Action Coddling." In an August 2009 post on National Review Online's blog The Corner, Zycher wrote: "Now, let me be blunt: Michelle Obama, the product of lifelong affirmative-action coddling, is an intellectual lightweight who fancies herself a serious thinker. Just read her Princeton senior thesis, an intermittently coherent stream-of-consciousness pile of leftist jargon, campus pseudo-seriousness, and racial-identity babble. Can there be any doubt that the Princeton administrators accepted it only because of her skin color?" [National Review, 8/17/09; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

Thomas C. Rustici: "In November We Will Kick Your Asses Out And Save This Republic From Your Socialistic Tyranny." Speaking at an April 2010 Tea Party rally, Rustici said: "I swear on my life, with God as my witness, we are going to hold them to account for this disaster. If you're a politician and disrespect the Constitution, individual liberty, and the American people; heed my words: this, I swear before God almighty right here right now, we're coming after you. In November we will kick your asses out and save this Republic from your socialist tyranny." [TomRustici.Angelfire.com, 4/10/10; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

Yuri N. Maltsev: Calls For "Unity" And "Fairness" Look Like "Germany of 1932" And "Mugabe's Zimbabwe." On libertarian website LewRockwell.com, Maltsev wrote: "The thought scene in the US today resembles that of Russia in 1917, Cuba in 1959 or China in 1948. Incessant calls for 'unity' and 'fairness,' attacks on 'divisive,' 'toxic' and 'hateful' language are nothing new - they resemble Germany of 1932 and Venezuela of 1996, today's Putin's Russia and Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Listening to the NPR tirades against freedom of speech, famous George Washington's dictum comes to mind: 'It will be found unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.' We witness another kind of spirit in the city named after him - of praise and adoration of the new beloved leader." [LewRockwell.com, 11/17/08; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

David G. Tuerck: Obama Embraces Marxism "In His Heart Of Hearts." In a blog post on his personal website, The Asylum, David G. Tuerck wrote:

Those words will come from the public Obama of last year's election, the cool, pragmatist Obama. But the person uttering those words will be the person who has always identified with, and felt most comfortable around, the likes of Jeremiah Wright, William Ayres [sic] and Van Jones. What the Van Jones appointment, in particular, has shown is that people with the power to shape our country's most fundamental values and institutions can never escape the pull of their personal ideology and can be expected to push toward the implementation of that ideology once given the chance. Obama wants to socialize medical care and will do all he can to get what he wants as soon as he gets the power he needs to move us in that direction.

When a reporter asked candidate Joe Biden if he thought Obama was a Marxist, Biden dismissed the reporter's question as ridiculous. It appears now that what was ridiculous is that the reporter thought it necessary to ask the question in the first place. As hard as it is to find anyone nowadays who openly embraces Marxism as a philosophy, Barack Obama managed to give a high-level appointment to someone who does. What more evidence do we need to know what philosophy Obama embraces in his own heart of hearts? [The Asylum, 9/7/09; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

Dave Garthoff: Obama Punishes Our Friends And Kisses Up To Our Enemies. In a letter to the editor printed in the West Side Leader, Garthoff wrote: "I almost feel sorry for my Left-Liberal friends who whole-heartedly support the now obviously failing Obama administration. It must be painful to them to watch as their program for 'change' staggers down the slippery slope toward collapse as initiative after initiative backfires. To name a few: [...] The punishment of our friends and the kissing up to our enemies in international affairs." [West Side Leader, 10/15/09; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

Michael Boskin: Obama Is "Returning To Jimmy Carter's Higher Taxes And Mr. Clinton's Draconian Defense Drawdown." In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Boskin wrote: "The illusion that Barack Obama will lead from the economic center has quickly come to an end. Instead of combining the best policies of past Democratic presidents -- John Kennedy on taxes, Bill Clinton on welfare reform and a balanced budget, for instance -- President Obama is returning to Jimmy Carter's higher taxes and Mr. Clinton's draconian defense drawdown." [Wall Street Journal, 3/6/09; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

At Least One Of Boehner's "150 Economists" Are Not Economists

Thomas P. Miller: Lawyer, Not An Economist. Miller's profile at the American Enterprise Institute indicates his education is limited to a J.D. from Duke University Law School and a B.A. in political science from New York University. [American Enterprise Institute, accessed 5/18/11; Political Correction, 5/20/11]

Posted In
Economy, Budget
The New York Times, Reuters
Washington Post
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.