Michael Smerconish, in Philly
Radio host and columnist Michael Smerconish, on the Porkulus.
About 200 prominent economists, including a dozen Nobel laureates, signed a petition pledging support for the stimulus package. Paul Krugman, himself a Nobel economics winner, has called for an even bigger government footprint than the one the president signed. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner might have to run TurboTax on his computer, but he also ran the New York Fed. He's no dope.
So it should be easy to believe that Obama and his economic brain trust are poised to steer the country out of recession, right? Not necessarily.
ON THE OTHER side sits the conservative Cato Institute, which recently placed full-page ads in the country's major newspapers to express disagreement with the president's plan.
Among the 200-plus who signed that petition was Michael Munger, chairman of the political-science department at Duke.
Munger, who holds a doctorate in economics, told me the president had mischaracterized the nature of the objections. The issue isn't that the Cato petition signers are simply "philosophically" opposed to government intervention. It's that government intervention doesn't work.
"All we're doing is funding things that were already set up, that would have been done anyway by the state. So the point is not that I think the government has no business. The point is that what they're doing is going to do more harm than good. I find it outrageous that he would misrepresent the position of 400 professional Ph.D. economists," he said.
Like Summers, Krugman, Geithner and the hundreds of economists supporting the stimulus plan, Munger and his allies are impressive. And these competing views leave many Americans stuck in the middle of two opposing "expert" opinions.
When I raised that with Munger, he said stimulus supporters know that the statistical realities don't bear out their case.
"But they're desperate," he said. "They're hoping that by giving some sort of sense of confidence - the idea that someone is in charge - that they can reverse this by giving people a sense of confidence."
Which is starting to remind me of global warming. Loads of experts and a similar number of opinions. On one hand, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change deemed it "unequivocal" and "very likely" that global warming, if it truly exists, is spurred by human activity.
Meanwhile, Weather Channel founder John Coleman has called it "the greatest scam in history." Once again, the rest of us are stuck somewhere in the middle, unsure of whom to believe.
My own view: There is a LOT more evidence that there is global warming than there is that Porkulus will work. Porkulus is just faith-based economics married to political entrepreneurship.