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July 17, 2007

What Does Kudlow Know?

"Kudlow isn't a specialist in something else who's just freelancing in economic ignorance on the National Review blogs," writes Matt. "This is supposed to be his area of specialization. But he doesn't know anything about it."

I've done a fair amount of television at this point, and argued, in general, with a fair number of conservatives, and I have literally never encountered an interlocutor who seemed as utterly ignorant of his subject as when I went up against Kudlow. The guy may not be a health care specialist, but he professes to be a business economist, and anyone who's read The Wall Street Journal over the past decade should have at least a passing familiarity with the subject, and any economist should be able to quickly understand the various types of market failure bedeviling the system. But so far as I could tell, he knew, literally, nothing. That's not a condition of ideology. Plenty of conservatives can argue health care. This was a condition of truly spectacular ignorance. Spectacular not because he didn't know, but because he thought a few free market aphorisms were a sufficient substitute for actually knowing. And yet he's seen as an expert. It's bizarre.

July 17, 2007 | Permalink


So why again are you looking to join this group of television pundits?

Posted by: wisewon | Jul 17, 2007 11:02:00 AM

Kudlow has that special kind of knowledge: know-nothing.

I keep on wondering when CNBC gets put down like an animal in its death throes, the only humane thing to do.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 17, 2007 11:05:49 AM

This is the inevitable by-product of the conservative welfare state. When dependence is bred from birth, when rewards are offered without regard to the exertion, knowledge, or merit of the recipient, individual initiative ceases because there is no incentive to add to one's knowledge. Anyone with an understanding of human nature can see that, but sadly, conservatives don't understand human nature.

Posted by: Marshall | Jul 17, 2007 11:11:04 AM

Kudlow knowing little nothing and having a very limited ability to express himself isn't a bug, it's a feature. Keep it simple for the audience who eats that shit up.

It's not bizarre, it's the standard. Or can you point to a large group of especially erudite pundits out there that specialize in educating their viewers/listeners and pointing subtle and important nuance in policy?

Of course you can't, they don't exist. Or if they do, they don't get TV/radio much.

As wisewon said, you want to play in this venue why? I hope the money's good because it certainly is not rewarding or important work playing the elitist intellectual to their woodenheadedness.

Posted by: ice weasel | Jul 17, 2007 11:11:24 AM

Maybe its not ideology in the sense that Kudlow knows nothing because he is a conservative ideologue, but its certainly ideology in the sense that the less one knows, the more one becomes ideological (if one is political).

Posted by: Patrick | Jul 17, 2007 11:30:43 AM

Kudlow sees two potential solutions to every problem in America. And I mean EVERY problem. Tax cuts and interest rate cuts. Name a problem, and he'll find a way to argue that one of those two solutions is the can't fail response.

A year or so ago, I caught him discussing crime in America on his show, specifically the high rates of African American men in prison. He suggested that the Fed should cut rates, thus providing stimulus to the economy, thus providing jobs, thus reducing crime. Problem solved!

Posted by: tomboy | Jul 17, 2007 11:42:28 AM

I got as far as
"Let someone else talk" after he gave you about 20 seconds to respond to his incoherent rant.

what a nut.

while in the short term confronting these loons is important, appearing on (and thus validating) this type of 'media' will eventually be a dead end road.

eventually you'll have to sell out or you will get shut out.

Posted by: b.h. | Jul 17, 2007 11:42:30 AM

Maybe I'm reading too much into a title, but if he was "chief economist and senior managing director of Bear, Stearns & Company," one has to wonder how he got so far up the ladder with such ignorance. He's an educated guy as well, which makes it even more puzzling.

Posted by: Brian | Jul 17, 2007 11:42:31 AM

but its certainly ideology in the sense that the less one knows, the more one becomes ideological (if one is political).

No, this isn't true. That partisanship can be used as a substitute for critical thinking only shows correlation, not causation.

What Ezra's talking about is a staggering ignorance of the subject matter even compared to a group of people known for their staggering ignorance of the subject matter.

I'd say that Kudlow could be considered the Platonic ideal of ignorant "experts" that makes all the rest of them possible.

Posted by: Stephen | Jul 17, 2007 11:43:45 AM

while in the short term confronting these loons is important, appearing on (and thus validating) this type of 'media' will eventually be a dead end road.

eventually you'll have to sell out or you will get shut out.


This really is the key point. With one subtle point in play. The sell-out crowd don't make it an explicit point to sell-out. They start with a noble purpose-- elevate discourse/change status quo/etc. but as the realities set in, and career advancement muddies the waters (well, if I play ball a little, I become more prominent and hence will have greater voice to make my points) they do eventually sell out.

Eyes wide open, Ezra, that's friendly advice. There's just too much profit to be made from the Kudlow's of the world to have things change the way you likely want them to.

As bh said, eventually you'll have to sell out or will be shut out.

Posted by: wisewon | Jul 17, 2007 11:53:36 AM

I certainly agree wisewon that 'selling out' is not usually an immediate conscious decision but rather a process that occurs as one's career advances.

I also want to note that I don't by any means advocate withdrawal into the safe, yet rarely heard, confines of the leftist media domains. I believe it key that progressives focus on new ways (which of course has already begun with the internet) to significantly influence popular culture and refute msm's parade of falsehoods and buffoonery. This btw is no easy task.

Posted by: b.h. | Jul 17, 2007 12:32:41 PM

If case you didn't know, Kudlow did have a well known problem with nose candy.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience | Jul 17, 2007 1:04:17 PM

directed to wisewon..."so why again are you looking to join this group of television pundits?"

wisewon, are you perhaps jealous that you are not being invited to share your ideas on health care with a huge audience, where there is the potential that your ideas might resonate with others, or even just one person, who can make a difference or change their thinking.
no-one should be admonished or begrudged for having or using such an opportunity to best advantage.
and better yet, to use it an atmosphere that is in need of illumination, no matter what the time constraint or who the moderater may be.
i remember hearing a lot of that kind of thinking in the seventies....
i remember sitting at a table with a group of friends who had dropped out of graduate and medical school at berkeley to join an ashram....my date was an assistant district attorney, who later became a judge.
...they railed at him ceaselessly, criticizing him for being a part of a corrupt system...for participating in something that was already broken.
...he tried valiantly, amidst a great deal of derision and real unkindness, to explain he felt there was good in what he did..that his work actually did often yield a good result..and his voice made a difference from within.
.....they would hear none of it.
this person, actually, has made an enormous contribution of good works, and has been a powerful voice for the good in the judicial system, who has left a legacy of good and wise works and decisions over a career that has now spanned forty years.
.....there is nothing wrong with participating in a forum where your voice is heard by many people...whether it is larry kudlow's show, or an overcrowded and overheated courtroom.
and frankly, a wisewon should already know that, if in fact, you are a wisewon.
....when someone has something meaningful to be said, even if it can be heard by one person, it is a great thing.
if it can resonate to many people, it is better still.
...ezra should be encouraged to speak out wherever he is..in whatever forum he is given.
...those who protest, may just be jealous that they arent invited to be in a forum where their voice and opinion is heard by many, many people.

Posted by: jacqueline | Jul 17, 2007 1:10:58 PM


Read further posts down the road for further nuance.

Posted by: wisewon | Jul 17, 2007 1:14:12 PM

I meant further in this thread...

Posted by: wisewon | Jul 17, 2007 1:14:37 PM


Just saw your e-mail address and realized that you're Ezra's mom.

I'm not attacking your son, I like the guy and his passion. I just think he's likely a little naive about the TV/punditry industry. Its an industry where you play by the establishment's rules (i.e. sell out) or they kick you out. Its clear from the few clips that I've seen so far that Ezra is not playing by their rules, and he's hoping to change the dynamic, but he's more likely to get kicked out. But the lure of television punditry and the associated dollars can be big, and has pulled people in the wrong direction before.

Posted by: wisewon | Jul 17, 2007 1:21:16 PM

thank you for your reply, wisewon.
in response to the post by b.w....

selling out is not an option for people of conscience, of which most definitely, ezra is one.
i surely agree that this is no easy task...
may ezra continue to be successful in using his voice for the good, amidst the "parade of falsehoods and buffoonery." it takes stamina and encouragement to do so. may ezra continue to have both.

Posted by: jacqueline | Jul 17, 2007 1:28:56 PM

that was quite unkind of you to "out" me, as i prefer anonymity here...and i honestly speak the truth as i see it...and give the same support and encouragement as i see it when i make comments in other places.
my being related to ezra had nothing to do with my comment, and there was no need for you to write that... except to make me uncomfortable leaving comments.
that was surely not a kind gesture on your part.

Posted by: jacqueline | Jul 17, 2007 1:32:32 PM


if i knew aspects of your private/personal life, i would not see fit to mention or expose them in a post.
my remarks were made as a person of conscience, who tries to extend encouragement to all young people, for fighting the good fight, and working hard to bring light into all dark places...whether they are my children, or the children of others.

Posted by: jacqueline | Jul 17, 2007 1:38:15 PM

Apologies on "outing" you-- making you uncomfortable was not my intent.

Posted by: wisewon | Jul 17, 2007 1:42:49 PM


Just to underscore-- I honestly didn't think I was "outing" you, I figured that the use of your name meant that others that have read this site longer than I already knew this. I only mentioned it to better relate to you in my response. Honest, sincere apologies.

Posted by: wisewon | Jul 17, 2007 1:48:14 PM

thank you. apology accepted, wisewon...

it is an honor to see highly intelligent and socially engaged people such as yourself, participating here. i always enjoy and learn from your comments on health care here.
thank you.

Posted by: jacqueline | Jul 17, 2007 1:48:48 PM

Sigh. I don't feel like this even needs to be emphasized, but I let anyone post here, and I discourage folks from questioning motives. Honestly, this whole thread is a little silly. The idea that I won't debate people who are hacks but have audiences in the hundreds of thousands is nuts. As is happening here, where I insult the host of the show who brought me on, I'm not exactly concerned about being invited back. And those who think I should stay off such shows aren't of that opinion because they themselves lack audiences.

Posted by: Ezra | Jul 17, 2007 2:33:50 PM

Oh man, that was awesome. Good job. You do have a huge advantage though, because our side is obviously right on this one.

I forget that the Colbert Report is based on real lunatics. What a nut! "Ezra, let someone else talk." Unbelievable.

Posted by: Chris | Jul 17, 2007 3:41:39 PM

I don't think at all you should turn the invites down. That access is critical while it lasts. But you know it can't last if you continue to insult the host (no matter how richly deserved). so you're not concerned about that. But then what? Do you then capitulate a little and reason; maybe i'll tone it down a bit so i can maintain the access to the hundreds of thousands? I'm sure that has been tried before and how many current regular tv pundits do you really respect?
Nevertheless we do need the access, the question is how to maintain it. In the world of corporate media and vacuous millionaire pundits anything involving them is necessarily a short-term solution. As a community progressives must find other outlets and means to incorporate our message within popular culture. And that is what I mean by not being an easy task.

Posted by: b.h. | Jul 17, 2007 4:14:14 PM

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