A Man Without a Plan

by Robert Shiller Robert Shiller, Professor of Economics at Yale University, is co-author, with George Akerlof, of Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism. 13.11.2012


During the United States’ recent presidential election campaign, public-opinion polls consistently showed that the economy – and especially unemployment – was voters’ number one concern. The Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, sought to capitalize on the issue, asserting: “The president’s plans haven’t worked – he doesn’t have a plan to get the economy going.”

Nonetheless, Barack Obama was reelected. The outcome may reflect the economy’s slight improvement at election time (as happened when Franklin Roosevelt defeated the Republican Alf Landon in 1936, despite the continuing Great Depression). But Obama’s victory might also be a testament to most US voters’ basic sense of economic reality.


Romney had no miracle cure, either, but he attempted to tap into voters’ wishful-thinking bias, by promising to reduce the size of the government and cut marginal tax rates. That would work if it were true that the best way to ensure economic recovery were to leave more money on the table for individuals. But the electorate did not succumb to wishful thinking.


Today, the most powerful economic adviser remaining in the White House is Gene Sperling.........His 2005 book The Pro-Growth Progressive contains many ideas about how to make the economy perform better. None is grandiose, but together they might help substantially. Some of these ideas found their way into the American Jobs Act, which might have had some real impact had Congress passed it in 2011.

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