Why doesn't the AEA get it about pubic's rejection of their policies?

Dear Prof. Wolff Here is the link and the article: http://www.wsj.com/articles/top-economists-grapple-with-public-disdain-for-initiatives-they-championed-1483916701 CHICAGO—The nation’s leading economists are suffering an identity crisis as many of the institutions they helped build and causes they advanced have come in for public scorn and rejection at the ballot box. The angst was on display this weekend at the annual conference of the American Economic Association, the profession’s largest gathering. The conference is a showcase for agenda-setting research, a giant job fair for the nation’s most promising young economists and, this year, the site of endless discussion about how to rebuild trust in the discipline. Many academic economists have been champions of free trade and globalization, ideas under assault among rising populist movements in advanced economies around the world. The rise of President-elect Donald Trump, with his fierce rhetoric against elites, in particular, left many at this conference questioning their place in the world. “The economic elite did many things to undermine their credibility while people’s economic fortunes were taking a turn for the worse,” said Steven Davis, an economist at the University of Chicago. But a road map for regaining trust is elusive. “I used to think facts and analysis will ultimately carry the day but now I’m not quite sure.” In November a group of 370 economists, including eight Nobel laureates in economics, signed a letter warning against the election of Mr. Trump. The conference took place in the shadow of the 1,400-foot Trump International Hotel and Tower, with its giant embossed letters glistening above the Chicago River: TRUMP. Chicago’s single-digit temperatures meant anxious discussions took place among economists quite literally shivering in black or gray overcoats. “Economics has done a poor job integrating political concerns,” said Athanasios Orphanides, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus. Surveys from the Pew Research Center have documented dwindling support for free trade. In 2014, 60% of Democratic voters and 55% of Republican voters supported such trade agreements. In an October survey, however, support among Democrats had fallen to 56% and support among Republicans had nose-dived to 24%. Over a billion people moved out of poverty in developing countries in the last 25 years, lifted in part by global trade and other economic prescriptions, but those same policies created winners and losers in the West. Another Pew study last year compared views of whether it was good for the U.S. to be so involved in the global economy: 86% of scholars said it was good, and just 2% bad. Among the general public, 49% thought it was bad, and just 44% good. A separate survey from Marketplace-Edison Research, conducted in READ MORE Economics Conference Tests Job Seekers’ Mettle http://www.wsj.com/articles/top-economists-grapple-with-public-disdain-for-initiatives-they-championed-1483916701 1/8/17, 8E20 PM Page 2 of 4 October, asked U.S. adults how much they trusted data about the economy that is reported by the federal government. A quarter of respondents said they “do not trust it at all” while another 19% said they somewhat distrust it. That is difficult to comprehend at a conference like this, where 13,000 attendees assembled for more than 500 presentations, many of which are built around findings that heavily use that government data. The profession sees its successes as overlooked—the U.S. is wealthier than ever. The unemployment rate is below 5%. Challenges facing those who enjoyed little economic gain in recent years are among the topics economists are trying to diagnose and the subject of dozens of papers at this year’s conference. Presentations throughout the weekend had an exasperated tone— Princeton University economist and Nobel laureate Angus Deaton gave one titled “Where In The World Is The World Headed?” Another Nobel Laureate, Columbia University’s Edmund Phelps, delivered a presentation titled “How the Left and Right Are Failing the West.” Mr. Phelps said that neither the economic policies of Mr. Trump nor the left “can be expected to revitalize the West since neither serves to stimulate the business innovation that is essential for rapid economic growth.” Stanford University’s John Taylor and Columbia’s Glenn Hubbard said Mr. Trump’s plans to simplify the tax and regulatory codes could indeed boost the economy’s growth. Both economists served in the past in the White House Council of Economic Advisers, long populated by academics who present at the AEA conference every January. This year, academics are out in the cold. During the election The Wall Street Journal contacted every former member of the CEA, including those going back to President Richard Nixon. None had been tapped as an adviser to Mr. Trump’s campaign, nor did any publicly endorse him. The president-elect is “not particularly interested in hearing from the academic economist club,” Mr. Davis said. That could leave him missing needed advice. Still, the profession may have brought this on itself, said Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia professor and Nobel winner. Anger among voters was to be expected, because globalization in particular was sold in part with broken promises. “The promise was that globalization, together with liberalization, lowering tax rates, and advances in technology, would make everyone better off,” said Mr. Stiglitz. It was economists, not the economics, that over-promised, he said. http://www.wsj.com/articles/top-economists-grapple-with-public-disdain-for-initiatives-they-championed-1483916701 1/8/17, 8E20 PM Page 3 of 4 “In many ways, economic science was more honest,” he said, referring to the fact that some would win but others could lose from free trade. “It only said that under certain conditions winners could compensate losers, not that they would.” Write to Josh Zumbrun at Josh.Zumbrun@wsj.com Copyright ©2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers visit http://www.djreprints.com. http://www.wsj.com/articles/top-economists-grapple-with-public-disdain-for-initiatives-they-championed-1483916701 1/8/17, 8E20 PM Page 4 of 4


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  • published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-01-09 20:22:37 -0500

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