There are very few members of congress with whom I’ve ever had the opportunity to discuss a substantive matter of public policy. But as it happens, one of them — the one with whom I’ve had the second-longest exchange — is Mike Pence (R-IN) who I’ve seen on television today repeatedly discussing the Republican Study Group’s “plan” for the financial crisis. And I can tell you this about Mike Pence: he has no idea what he’s talking about. The man is a fool, who deserves to be laughed at. He’s almost stupid enough to work in cable television.
Specifically, way back in 2005 I got to talk to him about Social Security privatization at a Heritage Foundation event. Obviously, I have my perspective on this and conservatives have theirs. But Pence had a truly peculiar idea. His idea was that the government ought to reassure people about the risks of losses under a privatization plan by having the government guarantee a minimum annuity level pegged to what’s promised under current law. This plan would, according to Pence, save money relative to current law because most people’s stock/bond portfolio would outperform the level needed to provide such an annuity, so the government would only need to kick in for a minority of people. I said I thought this would create a moral hazard problem for bad investors. He had no idea what I was talking about. Seemed unfamiliar with the term. Then I tried to explain it to him, I said that if the government guaranteed to bail you out in case of losses, then investors would make riskier investments and the number of people who need bailing out would rise. He just flat-out denied this, said the presence or absence of a guaranteed bailout would have no impact on investor behavior. He seemed unaware that some portfolios are riskier than others, or that higher average rates of return are associated with greater risk taking. He didn’t know anything at all, in short, about investing, financial markets, or, seemingly, the basic terms of public policy. And yet there he was speaking on the topic at Heritage. He’s a total fraud.
Which is all by way of introducing CAP VP for Economic Policy Michael Ettlinger’s critique of the Pence far-right crisis “plan” which, as you’ll see, is also utterly fraudulent. If cable news networks were run by people with any conscience, any sense of obligation or ethics, they would be treating this plan and its author as the joke they are. But of course they aren’t run by people with any conscience or any sense of ethics, so it’s all just treated as another subject for debate.