In Democratic circles, “you’re behaving like a Republican” are fightin’ words.
And the fact that the Hillary Clinton campaign, and its surrogates, are now deploying this line of attack against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is likely evidence of how worried they are about Sanders’ popularity among the Democratic electorate.
The latest example of this attack came Wednesday in an open letter written by four former Obama and Clinton administration economists that was addressed to Sanders and University of Massachusetts economist Gerald Friedman, who has recently made some extraordinary claims about what sort of economic growth would result from the implementation of the Sanders economic agenda. They write:
The authors of the letter—economists Alan Krueger of Princeton, Austan Goolsbee of the University of Chicago, and Christina Romer and Laura Tyson of the University of California—are complaining about an article published in CNNMoney that first reported the content of a research paper by Friedman which argued that Sanders’ policies could bring annual real GDP growth in America to 5.3%.
In the same article, Sanders policy director Warren Gunnels is quoted as calling Friedman’s paper “good work,” and defended the eye-popping estimates made by the University of Massachusetts economist.
So, what are the problem with Friedman’s analysis? Economist Paul Krugman took him to task on his blog for overestimating the potential of public policy to help increase the labor participation rate—the rate at which adults are in the workforce. “Even those of us who believe that there’s still significant slack in the US labor market are aware that much, probably most, of the decline in labor force participation since 1999 reflects an aging population,” Krugman writes. He continues:
In a phone interview with Fortune, Friedman says that none of the economists who signed the letter reached out to him to ask for a copy of the paper. “I don’t know if they read my report, quite honestly,” he says.
Though he won’t speculate why these economists felt the need to question his analysis, he says that there is a tendency in the economics community to doubt that government action can boost economic growth and to instead assume that trends like a declining participation rate are the result of an aging population, but that such assumptions are unproven.