JB: No one would ever accuse me of being a "money person" but what you say sounds perfectly reasonable. How do you explain all the pot shots being taken at Bernie and his plan by liberal economists including Paul Krugman, who usually makes a lot of sense to me?
RP: I can't explain the motives behind the extreme hostility by Krugman and other liberal economists, and I don't want to speculate. All I can say is that in my view, their hostility--including name-calling and ridicule--is totally unwarranted based on trying to consider the proposals Sanders has made as serious analytic propositions. Of course, the Sanders campaign hasn't worked out all the details of these programs. They haven't come up with a big model that forecasts economic growth that would result from these models. Such matters are very time-consuming and demanding, and even when you work at it a long time diligently, there is still a good chance that your economic growth forecast will not be accurate. Nevertheless, as a professional economist, I know the literature from which I can confidently conclude that the proposals are broadly workable and consistent with healthy economic growth. Whether the proposals are politically feasible is another story. But if Sanders were to get elected president, what would be understood as politically feasible will have obviously shifted dramatically right then and there.
JB: Do you have a horse in this race, Bob?
RP: I am most definitely for Bernie Sanders, as I hope is clear from the article. I have written at length--including a 2003 book, CONTOURS OF DESCENT--on why I think Clintonomics was a disaster for most people, in the U.S. and elsewhere. I summarized many of the main themes of that book in another recent Nation piece. I see Hillary as basically an extension of the neoliberal model within the Democratic party--that is, aggressively pro-business, but making minor concessions to non-business groups to establish a distinction between themselves and Republicans, in order to harvest the Democratic Party constituencies for themselves. This model has dominated the Democratic Party since Bill Clinton. It is long past time to overturn it, and restore something like a Green New Deal. That is how I would characterize the Sanders program.
That said, I have had only minimal contact with the Sanders campaign, and have certainly not been paid one dime by the campaign.
JB: Got it. Thanks for the link. Anything you'd like to add before we wrap this up?
RP: I would just add this: At this point in the political cycle, when the candidates are fighting to attract voters in primary elections, it is not reasonable, or even relevant, to expect candidates to have fully-worked out economic policy proposals. Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders aside, I think it is fair to say that Paul Krugman doesn't have a fully worked out framework for restoring a well-functioning financial system, to take this one example. Nor do either Clinton or Krugman have reliable economic forecasts of how much growth will change due to the policies she is favoring. The main issues, at this point, are the general tenor of each program, and whether one can trust that either candidate will truly fight for a strong and effective agenda that supports well-being for the overwhelming majority of people and the environment. I am convinced that Sanders has a credible approach for advancing a Green New Deal and has the commitment to fight for it. He will also have a massive political movement behind him that he has ignited. The total history of both Bill and Hillary Clinton is to cozy up to big business and do their bidding, while throwing out concessions to everyone else, as needed, to advance their own political careers.
Thanks so much for talking with me, Bob. It was a pleasure!
The original Nation piece that sparked my interest: Bernie Sanders Will Make the Economy Great Again 3.29.2016
Two of my interviews with Pollin's colleague, Gerald Friedman:
Econ Prof Protests Gross Distortion of Work by WSJ and Clinton Campaign 1.19.2016
Collin's latest book: Greening the Global Economy