In Response to: Deficit disorder

Why does Princeton engage alumni who were in government service with the CBO and OMB to teach students (cover story, April 6) when we have academic professors in the economics department hired for that job and responsibility? It appears we are a tributary backwater for former government officials, many with Republican ideological conservative economic principles, to wear an academic hat. First it was former Sen. Bill Frist ’74; now it is former OMB director Josh Bolten ’76. As a few-times visiting lecturer, they may pass the test; but a permanent seat at our table, I think not. Is this the payoff for enticing large Aspire campaign gifts? We have a superb group of professors/economists in our economics department. Teaching does not have to be diluted by those who happened to hold office via political appointments. 

This article is just more hand-wringing by deficit hawks, none of whom ever experienced personally the full brunt of the Great Depression. That Bolten and Gregory Mankiw '80 even give Rep. Paul Ryan’s plans the time of day is astounding. These two baby boomers with privileged paths and smooth hands never have lived on the street through economic turmoil until now. If they want to reduce the deficit, look to the banks and financial institutions that were responsible for the fiscal crisis to reign in their casino roulette wheels, derivatives trading desks, and unjustifiable compensation for symbolic starters. They caused this deficit; let them be taxed to the utmost for their irresponsibility. 

It is an equally sad commentary that a large percentage of graduates opt for careers in finance. Maybe we should look to Solomon Brothers alumnus author Michael Lewis ’82 to do a stint at the Wilson School to convey some outlandish truths about banking and finance in the real world. We might ask former Fed chairman Paul Volcker ’49 to introduce him. 

Peter Orszag ’91 says we have never run excessive budget deficits over an extended period of time, “outside of a war.” Has he looked east out of his window lately, or do the lost lives and defense expenditures in the Mideast only fall in the accountant's column as off-balance-sheet police action? But he might look beyond his limited definition of war to view the vastly understated unemployment numbers as the looming war against myopic deficit hawks who see government run by corporate America for corporate America.

The government underfunded TARP by half, as economist Paul Krugman has pointed out time and again to the deaf ears and blind eyes of some Princeton plutocrats. If we are to reassert the values and heightened principles of an equal democracy for all, serious large government spending programs suchas FDR pushed in the depth of the Depression would lead to reduced unemployment, stimulate private sector employment as a spinoff, and – surprise, surprise – increase tax revenues. Keynes was a bellwether.  And for the inflation worrywarts, when it appears to be headed above the Fed’s target after recovery had been stimulated with determination, one of our own at the helm, Ben Bernanke, will head it off at the pass with a dose of stringent monetary policy. Economics is not rocket science. 

The long-term deficit problem then can be addressed by raising taxes dramatically on tax-avoidance corporations and our mega-rich oligarchs and by closing absurd loopholes, just for openers. Awash in trillions in cash, most public corporations will not feel any pain and suffering as they cry all the way to their fleet of yachts and Dubai beach houses. Let Princeton economists teach economics, and let’s have a PAW cover story striking a balance with their views of “America’s Looming Deficit,” rather than leave us hanging on the positions of alumni “experts,” a presumptuous word subject to loose interpretation.

Laurence C. Day ’55