Your Hearing: New Blog at WashingtonPost.com

Some readers have emphasized how the current economic and financial situation leaves them feeling powerless.  Others complain that it’s hard for outsiders even to understand the process through which ideas are debated and become policies – how Capitol Hill really works is a fascinating mystery at many levels.

This morning we’re extending our efforts to address these issues with the launch of The Hearing, a new blog at the Washington Post.  James and I are the moderators and we’ll focus the discussion around Congressional hearings – including the broader debates in which these are situated.

The Post has great impact in Washington and it’s our hope that The Hearing will allow you to express ideas in ways and at a time that can have real effects on policies.  For this reason, we’ll preview public events and provide ways for you to suggest questions that need to be heard.  At the very least, we can all learn more about what is happening and exactly why.

We’re open to suggestion regarding the exact format, guest contributors, and generally how to make The Hearing more effective.  We will, of course, keep BaselineScenario as our primary outlet for opinions and analysis – The Hearing is intended to be complementary, by bringing your voices into the specifics of idea flow through Congress.  We’ll tell you here when you should consider going to look there.

My first post deals with tomorrow’s JEC hearing on “Is Big Finance Too Big To Save”?  I preview what Joe Stiglitz and Thomas Hoenig are likely to say (based on their racing form), and I anticipate where the discussion will go – or at least where I will try to push it, as I’m on the panel also. 

If you have points or questions you want raised, please post them here or on the Post’s site.  There’s no guarantee your issues will be taken up, of course, but my guess is that this new forum will help sensible requests – of the kind often seen here – gain broader traction.

By Simon Johnson

30 responses to “Your Hearing: New Blog at WashingtonPost.com

  1. It does not yet seem possible to get The Hearing via an RSS feed. I tried with Google Reader. Got an error message. Same thing when clicking on the RSS link on The Hearing page. That’s too bad.

  2. So they put all of the skeptics on the same panel?

    That is a good idea; it will save time if they can ignore all of you at once.

  3. bobgreenfest

    How can a blatantly one sided liberal paper like The Washington Post possibly have an on line discussion that allows for all sides of issues to be heard. See http://www.bobgreenfest.wordpress.com for more information.

  4. There is an implicit assumption here that congressional hearings serve some sort of useful purpose.

    After watching hearings since the days of the Army-McCarthy set and those over the evils of comic books, the best I can come up with is that they are PR stunts which aim to get some issue before the public that whoever is running the hearings thinks needs more support.

    The witnesses are invited, usually their testimony is known in advance, in many cases it is tailored with the help of staff (see Anita Hill, for example) and those in the legislature who disagree with those who have called the hearing don’t show up, or if they do it is just to take pot shots at the witnesses.

    It’s all political theater. Highlighting it as if it of real importance is unproductive. The real deals still happen in the back rooms.

  5. having tried to follow some of the congressional hearings for a few years (click on my name for last post), i have some specific requests for your new blog (congrats btw):

    1. would you please post a weekly list of all the scheduled hearings as well as the few hearings you select to discuss (i expect you may focus on those with economic topic)? if you can shame congress into making such a list available, all the better. here is an example of what i have in mind:

    http://www.netrootsmass.net/2009/03/hearing-list-for-week-of-mar-2-2009/

    2. please give congress hell about making transcripts available within a day of the hearing.

    thanks and good luck. i too am looking forward to tomorrow’s hearing.

  6. of course it’s all political theater. still, some of it is useful.

    the important thing, imo, is that there are two kinds of hearings – the ones with witnesses who are trying to hide the truth (geithner is a recent example), and those with witnesses who are trying to educate (even if from very different points of view – simon johnson and lori wallach are a recent example).

    the first type of hearing just make our congressmembers look stupid (these hearings should, imo, be turned over to an experienced counsel to question the witnesses).

    the second type of hearing can be very informative for the public, and possibly (?) members of congress as well (of course they would have to be present for the hearing and not just their 5 minutes (which they typically use in an attempt to get a good youtube clip)

  7. The public does not follow hearings. No one watches cspan and the nightly news only reports on hearings when there is some sort of scandal involved and then they show a few seconds. Like the auto bosses admitting they had all flown in on private jets.

    So, I’m not sure who the hearings are supposed to reach. I watched the hearings of a couple of weeks ago that had DeLong, Galbraith and several other economists testifying. Each gave a five minute speech, answered a few questions and left the bulk of their testimony to a written submission.

    What a waste of time to fly these people across the country for this. It could have all been accomplished with a webcam and some youtube.

    Why does congress still operate in the age of the horse and buggy? Legislators can’t even cast their votes remotely, although every corporate proxy statement now allows this.

    Congress doesn’t need to update procedures because what happens in the chambers is irrelevant.

  8. I had one suggestion: require commentors to include their Zip Code, so you can display their House Reps and Senators alongside their comments

    You could also set it up to forward these comments directly to the representatives’ staff offices

  9. Let’s hope it is as humorous as Dean Baker’s take on the Post.

  10. adios amigos

    MORE blogging? Well, that’s a wonderful idea. As the future of your nation is being stolen….your all “blogging”. MARCH INTO WASHINGTON….ARMED. Your Constitution provides for such action. If 1,000,000 of you march on Washington, with the theme being “stop stealing our futures”….do you think that will get anything done? Perhaps at that moment, the stealing will cease. They absolutely fear death….but thats all they fear.

    “Blogging” will not stop the generational theft that is underway. They criminals do not care that you are talking about them. That’s not what will get their attention.

  11. Thank you Simon and James. Your efforts are appreciated.

  12. Andrew Foland

    I see selise has beaten me here, but I was going to leave a comment that you would do well to contact selise (who’s left her info), and also David Waldman of http://www.congressmatters.org . They are both fairly experienced hearing-watchers and citizen parliamentarians.

  13. Andrew Foland

    Arg, it’s http://www.congressmatters.com , not org.

  14. Here is something that no one seems to “get,” but it is fundamental to Capitalism working: There needs to be competition in the markets (whether financial, agricultural, shoe manufacturing, jet manufacturing, travel, etc. etc. etc.) The primary economic role of government in a Capitalistic economy must be to ensure competition in the marketplace – and counter business’ drive for profit maximization (and thus a drive toward monopoly).

    The whole notion of “too big to fail” implies a lack of substantial, or real, competition. There should not be any industry that has players too big to fail. That there are such players, exposes government’s failure to play its proper economic role.

    This is so obvious, so crystal clear, to me. But apparently I am the lone wolf – who has been howling this song for decades now. It is getting old.

  15. YOU WOULDN’T DARE:
    In your opinion,
    will asset market extreme mispricing be well-deterred,
    if and when
    asset market real price histories are well-apparent to the people?

    Robert Shiller’s
    http://www.irrationalexuberance.com/
    mine
    http://homepage.mac.com/ttsmyf/RD_RJShomes_PSav.html

  16. Remembering Thomas Paine's Common Sense and lessons it may have for us NOW!

    i don’t think the issues are polititcally sided anymore.

  17. Remembering Thomas Paine's Common Sense and lessons it may have for us NOW!

    Nice work Ed! it just seems so obvious, but there are things that keep the illusion going…and recently, something very specific–you can find out what i am talking about in a paper on http://www.sprott.com and look at their paper published in 2005 the ‘Visible Hand”…another bit of info that seems to escape the public, but is quite apparent to anyone who examines ” (full time job) the moves of the market.

  18. Wampeter of My Karass

    Respectfully, Simon– you are wasting your time.

    The problem is, the Federal government as it is currently composed is far too big and far too powerful.

    The ONLY solution is to reduce the size and scope of Federal power by at least 90%. The Federal government needs to return to something like it was pre-1913 (or preferably, pre-1865). And yes, those specific dates were picked for a reason.

    You’ve got a great blog here. Don’t let this silly side project distract you. It’s a complete waste of time.

  19. Remembering Thomas Paine's Common Sense and lessons it may have for us NOW!

    Wampeter, you are totally right about the vital and right size of the government and the significance of the dates, but, maybe the move indeed offers a larger audience which may give more strength to the voice that generally is heard here on baselinescenario.com. And maybe the larger voice can create the a more momenteous power to insist on honest, pure, fair, and essential change.

  20. I hope this question could be used for Mr. Stiglitz, a man I have a high respect for. As far as I know, credit unions have not had any of the problems banks have had during these times. Am I right about that? If it is true that credit unions haven’t had the problems banks have had during this time, couldn’t we take some of the policies and practices used by credit unions and try that with banks??? Thanks for such a great site Mr. Kwak.

  21. Wampeter of My Karass

    The focus of such an effort cannot be around Congressional hearings– that’s simply an unproductive starting point. “Congressional hearings”– it’s practically an oxymoron. The proper focus should be around how to move power OUT of the beltway and into the state and local arena. Since most congressmen are interested only in increasing their power, not reducing it, it is a hopeless starting point.

  22. Is this blog a part of the “Mighty Wurlitzer?”

    Formal request for information: Who supports this blog financially — Petros Petropoulos?

    And again, since you folks are so close to the upper echelons — who funds NBER and CEPR?

    Come to think of it, who funds the top 10 econ blogs?

    Some of us have been hanging out on these sites for the last 3 years without seeing the above questions answered a single time.

  23. The Hearing feed doesn’t work

  24. Jonathan Dean

    This is a rockstar idea. Thank you and you are fighting the good fight.

    IMHO, it seems that a primary issue with Congressional hearings is that they follow a very similar pattern: people are dragged in front of Congress, do their best to avoid any “gotcha” moments, leave and then little of consequence subsequently occurs.

    My opinion here may well be tainted by the way mass-media covers the issues, but maybe not?

    Any effort to sustain attention on the full cycle of the Congressional hearings (i.e. did anything eventually happen as a result of them) would be an excellent area to devote effort.

  25. Jonathan Dean

    With respect Adios, I have a different opinion. I think that the mainstream media realizes that there are several key thinkers that have bubbled to the top of the blog heap (they only have to look at who everyone else is/is not reading) and that these key thinkers are shaping the debate.

    I think the causality of bloggers riding on the coat-tails of the mass-media is often backwards…

  26. Remembering Thomas Paine's Common Sense and lessons it may have for us NOW!

    Wampeter, after watching the dog and pony show this morning, i am sure you are correct!

  27. RSS feed still not working, sigh.

  28. Honestly, I don’t know what would come of such a thing, but I am hopeful. More and more I am convinced that each additional conduit of communication with the ability to garner Washington’s attention is good. A twitter group might be helpful.

  29. I am coming out of left field here, but I am looking at the current review of economic policies and wondering whether we can get economists to consider larger issues related to global warming and environmental sustainability: does maintaining or reducing population levels globally effect working models negatively or positively? is growth in the form of continual use of environmental capital required for a working model? It seems to me that our models are outdated when we examine our use of finite resources. Do we have an ‘Easter Island’ model of economics to help us understand what to avoid in the future? I have no idea what the answers to these questions would look like, but I’d love to see the pros take a crack.

    Hearings are great, but only if they lead to solutions.