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A Primer on Friedman’s Assessment of Bernie’s Economic Plans

By CPE Editorial Staff


On February 3rd, we posted a piece from Professor Gerald Friedman outlining the economic impact of Bernie Sanders’ economic proposals (both Friedman and the Center for Popular Economics have no connection to the Sanders campaign). The blog piece was based on Friedman’s full report, What would Sanders do? Estimating the economic impact of Sanders programs and can be found at Dollars & Sense.

As you may know by now, Friedman’s work has sparked a bit of controversy among some notable economists. Former CEA Chairs, Alan Krueger, Austan Goolsbee, Christina Romer, and Laura D’Andrea Tyson spoke out in an open letter to Sanders and Friedman calling the estimated beneficial impacts on growth rates, income, and employment “extreme” and “grandiose.”  New York Times columnist and blogger, Paul Krugman, referred to Friedman’s analysis as “voodoo of the left” and implied the economic estimates were the result of “fuzzy math,” though Friedman used entirely standard approaches combined with estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. Krugman and the former CEA chairs’ initial reaction failed to say much beyond that the numbers just didn’t seem right.

A host of economists and journalists have in turn criticized Krugman and the CEA chairs for failing to take on specifics, and pushed back at their characterizations of Friedman’s analysis as extreme and unrealistic.

With so much at stake, its no surprise that the ongoing debate has seen its share of hot air and grandstanding, particularly from those with the loudest mic, but thankfully we have also seen an abundance of reasoned and elucidating responses by academics, wonks, and financial analysts who have carefully analyzed Friedman’s numbers. We’ve collected key quotes from some of these responses and we present them here (in no particular order) to help highlight some of the disagreements driving the debate:

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