Our “Phantom” Economists

The view from the left is that the Rio Grande Foundation is a mammoth organization, well-funded by oil companies, the health insurance industry, and other unpopular and self-evidently-corrupt industries. Little do they know. We are a “lean and mean” organization. In part, this means relying on volunteers. Two volunteers with whom we sometimes work are economists Micha Gisser and Kenneth Brown. These two wrote an opinion piece under their own, not an RGF, byline recently, that appeared in the ABQ Journal explaining their views on the upcoming election. Needless to say, this greatly upset the folks over at ABQ Journal Watch and even led to a letter to the editor that appeared on September 13th, “outing” the two as working with the Rio Grande Foundation.

Leaving aside the obvious right of Brown and Gisser to write a column and submit whatever they want to the paper, I want to actually discuss the piece itself. Gisser and Brown essentially argue that voters who are frustrated with the floundering economy should vote for Republicans. They have a valid point, but not really for the reasons they state. The primary justification for voting for Republicans to take over at least one branch of Congress is to slow the growth of government. As William Niskanen has written, over the past 50 years, “Government spending has increased an average of only 1.73 percent annually during periods of divided government. This number more than triples, to 5.26 percent, for periods of unified government. That’s a hefty premium to pay for a bit of unity.

I do not share Brown and Gisser’s belief that if we could wave a magic wand tomorrow to put the Republicans in power of the federal government that they would do much to shrink government. After all, many of these Republicans served while Bush was taking spending to ever-higher levels as President.

Brown and Gisser are welcome to their views and they provide welcome help to the Rio Grande Foundation, but there is no conspiracy. If they write on something that is too “political” or inappropriate for the Foundation, they are welcome to do so. Claiming that this amounts to a conspiracy of any sort is downright silly.