There's a reason Robert Reich is a professor of public policy


And not, say, a professor of economics. Here is Robert Reich trying to point out that the economic plans of Bernie Sanders are just copacetic. Everything adds up, kittens will gambol down sunbeams again and my, won't the Republicans be put to the sword?

Not day goes by, it seems, without the mainstream media bashing Bernie Sanders’s economic plan – quoting certain economists as saying his numbers don’t add up. (The New York Times did it again just yesterday.) They’re wrong. You need to know the truth, and spread it.

1. “Well, do the numbers add up?”

Yes, if you assume a 3.8 percent rate of unemployment and a 5.3 percent rate of growth.

That's not even true in and of itself. It's necessary for there to be a 3.8% unemployment rate, a significant rise (several percentage points) in the portion of the working age population actually working and then near a decade's worth of that 5.3% growth rate. That rise in the portion working is most important: because given the demographics we generally think that is the really impossible part: the baby boomers are retiring, coming up to retirement, and people often do not wait for 65 to do so.

However, the real joy of this is that Reich is simply assuming what everyone else is insisting is impossible. No one is doubting that if you could have those three things then the Sanders economic plan would perform miracles. The doubt, in fact the insistence that it will not and cannot happen, is that those three things will not happen.

We could just about imagine a 3.8% unemployment rate at least for short periods of time. We cannot believe that the demographics will allow a larger working age participation and we absolutely insist that 5.3% real growth (the assumption is that inflation will stay down) cannot happen. There simply isn't that much slack in the American economy, meaning that the nominal growth will show up as inflation long before we're able to have 5% and more real GDP growth for years on end.

That is, Reich is insisting it will work if we just accept all the major points which we insist cannot happen.

This might even be great politics but it's not obviously economics of any useful sort. Thus, presumably, the job description.