WHAT'S WRONG WITH SAMUELSON. To add to Tom's more ideological critique of Robert Samuelson's latest column, let me just point out that this is an excellent example of what irritates me about Samuelson: He's a policy writer who doesn't appear to know very much about policy. The whole column is about our lower-than-expected deficits and how stinky Republicans are for celebrating it. At no time does Samuelson see fit to mention why we have lower-than-expected deficits. Indeed, in no place does he signal that he even knows. And that's the problem.
As anyone who cracked open Monday's Wall Street Journal knew, and as I explained here, the deficits were not -- despite Republican boasts, which Samuelson quotes -- healed by growth stemming from the tax cuts. Growth was precisely in line with expectations, but it was so localized to the rich that an unexpectedly large portion of the actual money generated went to the wealthy, and since they have higher tax brackets than the middle class, the Treasury received more revenue. But that's what the growth was: A function of inequality, and a signal that the middle class and the poor are being stiffed. Samuelson should've mentioned that. More to the point, he should've known that. As the domestic policy columnist for The Washington Post, it's his job to keep up on this stuff. While his lecture about deficits was basically on-point, his readers left that column believing a major lie about last week's economic news. It's his responsibility to see that that doesn't happen, and he too routinely fails.