The four former Council of Economic Advisers members write that they’re worried that Bernie Sanders is citing flimsy arguments from Friedman. | AP Photo
Former top economic advisers to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are taking aim at the underpinnings of Bernie Sanders’ plan on income inequality and employment, particularly expressing dismay at the assumptions of professor Gerald Friedman, who has advised Sanders’ campaign on economic issues.
In an open letter to Sanders and Friedman, a University of Massachusetts at Amherst economics professor educated at Harvard and Columbia, the four former members of the Council of Economic Advisers write that they’re worried that Sanders is citing flimsy arguments from Friedman.
“We are concerned to see the Sanders campaign citing extreme claims by Gerald Friedman about the effect of Senator Sanders’s economic plan — claims that cannot be supported by the economic evidence,” the economists wrote in the letter posted Wednesday. “Friedman asserts that your plan will have huge beneficial impacts on growth rates, income and employment that exceed even the most grandiose predictions by Republicans about the impact of their tax cut proposals.”
Story Continued Below
The four economists who signed the letter are Alan Krueger, Austan Goolsbee, Christina Romer and Laura D’Andrea Tyson.
The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Friedman good-naturedly brushed off the letter in an interview with POLITICO on Wednesday.
“Alan Krueger, I thought we were friends,” Friedman said. “Even Christina Romer. Austan Goolsbee has never been a friend.”
He added that they probably didn’t actually go through his 53-page report from January in which he gauged the economic impact of Sanders’ proposal. “I don’t think they read the report. If they did, I don’t think they would have said no credible economic research.”
Friedman also stressed that, contrary to the letter, he doesn’t work for the Sanders campaign and hasn’t been involved in his operations. And he said he supports Hillary Clinton.
“My only connection to the campaign were they asked me for help on how to finance a single-payer plan,” Friedman said, referring to Sanders’ universal health care plan. “My involvement with the Sanders campaign was on the health care, and also, I had gone to them because I wanted to do this study on the impact of their economic program.”
Goolsbee was also quoted in a New York Times article, citing a number of economists who are skeptical of some of Sanders’ economic arguments with some estimating that his proposals could expand the size of the federal government by more than 50 percent while doubting his assumptions of economic growth.
“As much as we wish it were so, no credible economic research supports economic impacts of these magnitudes,” the economists added in their letter. “Making such promises runs against our party’s best traditions of evidence-based policy making and undermines our reputation as the party of responsible arithmetic. These claims undermine the credibility of the progressive economic agenda and make it that much more difficult to challenge the unrealistic claims made by Republican candidates.”