GOOSE CREEK, South Carolina — Former Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) fielded questions from members of the local chapter of the NAACP on Tuesday, and explained his support for a balanced budget constitutional amendment by citing the now thoroughly debunked research by Professors Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff.
“I don’t think it comes as any epiphany for anybody that I’m for a balanced budget…I’ve been focused on this for a long time because there was a professor from the University of Maryland and a professor from Harvard, Reinhart and Rogoff. They did a study of the last 800 years of financial history…What they said was in every instance civilizations basically get to a tipping point when they have to decide ‘do we continue with this sort of happy but ultimately unsustainable cycle of upward government spending, upward government consumption?’ And 9 times out of 10 they said we’ll just continue down that path because this time it’s different. But it’s never different. The math always works.”
In fact, the math only worked after Reinhart and Rogoff wrongly excluded a significant amount of inconvenient data, gave improper weight to certain statistics that backed up their hypothesis, and committed a sloppy error in an Excel spreadsheet that dramatically altered their findings. Their 2009 book “This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly” that Sanford referenced on Tuesday is based on much of the same data as their debunked 2010 report.
Fiscal conservatives worldwide had for years cited the academic research by Reinhart and Rogoff, which purportedly showed a deleterious effect on economic growth once federal spending eclipsed 90 percent of a country’s GDP. But in the weeks since a group of researchers at UMass-Amherst published their own findings that corrected the errors of Reinhart/Rogoff, politicians like Paul Ryan have largely tried to distance themselves from the report. Sanford is among the few politicians still left propping up the faulty data as evidence in support of austerity measures.