Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"Snow Job," the Fungibility of Resources, and the Fantastic Incompetence of the Bush Administration

by Tom Bozzo

Tony Snow was on the teevee news last night, and NPR this morning, with his "guarantee" that world would be less safe were we to leave Iraq and a (worse) power vacuum to form there.

Now, there are times when people argue stuff on the grounds that it's unssaailable "econ 101" logic and you just want to slap them. I'll refer you to Kieran Healy's apotheosis of the point at — part of part of a discussion (also, see here) that seems to have been unheralded in the econosphere, but which interested parties (hey, Mark!) might bootstrap into wider prominence:
We have all heard – or perhaps been the victim of – aggressive browbeatings about “basic principles of Econ 101” or the “fundamental facts of economics.” The implication of this kind of boundary-maintenance is that credible criticism of economic policy or theory can only come from those with a Ph.D in the field. But internally economics remains quite heterogeneous. When apostates arise within the fold, the temptation is to insist these lost sheep are not really economists after all, or that they have forgotten any economics they once knew.
Having quoted all that, Tony Snow could use some Basic Principles of Econ 101. In this case, the concepts of note are substitution and the closely related fungibility of resources.

There has actually been at least one hack effort I know of to show that the Iraq war was not so expensive relative to the prior containment policy, in contrast to the efforts of Bilmes and tiglitz estimating that we've incurred a couple-trillion dollar bill for the debacle — and with the meter on direct expenditures spinning rapidly, anything short of a prompt withdrawal in 2009 could make the "conservative" estimates look low. Among the freshman errors required to make containment look expensive is to attribute the total cost of U.S. military assets deployed to the middle east to the Iraq containment effort, as if the U.S. had no interests in the region other than Iraq.

Along similar lines, what Snow's "guarantee" says is that if we were to give the Bush administration:
they couldn't do anything that gave us so much as a possibility of improved safety compared to the status quo — all that hard and soft power and they couldn't do anything net-positive for the White House press corps' safety let alone anyone else.

While it might be argued that Snow is simply parroting the fearmongering rhetoric that's the one note of the administration's fading political operatives, it should be clear once Bush gives the finger to nearly the entirety of us this evening that the administration actually has no clue as to how to wield anything other than its nation-wrecking power.

Impeach 'em all. Now.
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