Tuesday, April 1, 2008

More Skepticism

Will Wilkinson shares my initial skepticism about Larry Bartels' claim in his new book that the differences in income gains across all income groups are attributable to the president's party affiliation:

Will Wilkinson: Unequal Democracy: [C]ongress writes the laws, not the president. So why not look at the party tilt of congresses rather than presidents? Or the alignments between the party controlling congress and the part in the White House. What happens under divided government, I wonder. This is not to say that presidents don’t have a lot of policymaking power, especially given the massive growth in the size and power of the bureaucracies under executive control. The cabinet agencies’ considerable discretion in creating and enforcing regulations and their ability to selectively apply and enforce legislated mandates should be troubling — in itself and independent of issues of partisan slant — to . . . Bartels . . . . Because growth effects, for good or ill, follow policy changes with a pretty long lag (in political time at least), I guess this effect is supposed to be largely a function of redistributive policy that can take effect within a president’s term?
I don't think the effect of presidential party affiliation on income can't be teased out, I'm just skeptical -- based only on Dani Rodrik's admittedly short summary -- that Bartels has done it. Well, now my curiosity is sufficiently piqued, and I have pre-ordered a copy of Bartels' book. Here's hoping he proves me wrong!


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