Thursday , December 14 2017
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Do Not Expect too Much from Individual Senators

Summary:
Joseph Britt: @zathras3 on Twitter:Thread by @de1ong in response to an observation I made about @SenBobCorker & the Senate #TaxBill-it understates resources available to a senior Senator, but is dead accurate on damage to the Senate done by McConnell trashing Regular Order. Joseph Britt: @zathras3 on Twitter: "Forgive me for pointing this out, but these descriptions of Corker’s thinking suggest a guy who started thinking about fiscal policy a month ago, rather than someone who’s been in the Senate for years..." Brad DeLong: de1ong on Twitter: Look: they have 80 hours a week to work: 20 fundraising, 20 coalition maintenance, 20 management, 20 policy. There are, say, 20 important policy issues they have to cover. That means 1 hour a week on average on each policy issue. That means in 3

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Clown Car

Joseph Britt: @zathras3 on Twitter:Thread by @de1ong in response to an observation I made about @SenBobCorker & the Senate #TaxBill-it understates resources available to a senior Senator, but is dead accurate on damage to the Senate done by McConnell trashing Regular Order.

Joseph Britt: @zathras3 on Twitter: "Forgive me for pointing this out, but these descriptions of Corker’s thinking suggest a guy who started thinking about fiscal policy a month ago, rather than someone who’s been in the Senate for years..."

Brad DeLong: de1ong on Twitter: Look: they have 80 hours a week to work: 20 fundraising, 20 coalition maintenance, 20 management, 20 policy.

There are, say, 20 important policy issues they have to cover. That means 1 hour a week on average on each policy issue. That means in 3 years a senator spends as much time thinking about a policy issue as does an undergraduate taking a 1-semester course. & knowledge depreciates. If you spend only 1 hour a week on something, you never become an expert at all. You pretty much have to start from sophomore level every time you try to gear up.

Now this is supposed to be solved by (1) committee chairs/ranking members who are experts and who share your values; (2) committee staff committed to the Holy Monastic mission of technocratically teaching you & answering your questions; (3) thinktanks that regard you as their boss rather than their lawful prey over whose eyes they can pull the wool; and (4) long-term personal staff who share your values and are experts.

McConnell's breaking of regular order has broken (1). And with (1) broken, the experts on (2) have little opportunity to speak. The Republican thinktanks now regard informing senators about what the issues are and how the world works as last among their priorities—indeed, as a negative priority. And with gridlock and so much less opportunity to do some legislatin' since McConnell began root and branch opposition to Obama, personal staff quality and continuity has, I think, greatly declined as well.

So, yes, Corker sounds like a junior who began taking his "fiscal policy" course a month ago because that essentially is what he is. And all kinds of people have been trying to help him. And he has been trying to do his best. But McConnell snookered him...

Bradford DeLong
J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

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