This week, while economists should have been closely considering the implications of the actual bankruptcy of Stockton, California, they instead heaped scorn on the perceived ideological bankruptcy of David Stockman. In other words, Stockman trumped Stockton.
Ronald Reagan's former Budget Director contributed "Sundown in America" a multi-page opinion piece to the Sunday New York Times which loudly and eloquently described the illusions of our current economic system. While I don't agree with everything Stockman believes, I think he is showing great wisdom and courage in making dire predictions and calling for extreme changes in our policy and politics.
What was perhaps more surprising than the Times' uncharacteristic decision to run the piece in the first place was the vitriolic and largely ad hominem backlash against Stockman that quickly emerged from across the political spectrum. The attacks have focused primarily on his history and personality, and not on his arguments. One would be hard pressed to find any journalistic reaction that did not use the words "screed" "rant" or "unhinged." I believe these responses reveal an acute sensitivity from mainstream economists that arises from defending contorted Keynesian logic.
It can't be easy to take the position that debt doesn't matter and that spending creates economic growth. To do so with any hope of success requires team unity, and Stockman has never really been a team player. His reputation as an apostate and a naysayer has made him an easy target.