Faithful readers of this blog might remember the despicable antics of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who, in a televised hearing last June, spent eight excruciating minutes impugning the honesty of a young economist named Salim Furth — because Furth had presented actual data that contradicted a bunch of numbers Whitehouse had made up out of whole cloth. For those who need a refreseher, the entire sordid story — including Paul Krugman’s reprehensible piling-on to Whitehouse’s McCarthyite smear — is here with a follow-up here.
Well, it turns out that Senator Whitehouse is no more interested in understanding the numbers today than he was last June. Last week, the Heritage Foundation held a symposium on the effects of austerity and what the data actually show — the precise data that Whitehouse disputed. In addition to Furth, who has continued his meticulous research on the subject the speakers included illustrious scholars such as Harvard Professor Alberto Alesina. Heritage sent personal invitations to Senator Whitehouse’s staff and to the various journalists who screwed up this story by reporting Whitehouse’s made-up numbers as accurate and his smears as justified.
The result? None of them showed. Apparently Senator Whitehouse’s passionate interest in the austerity numbers tends to cool off when he can’t hog the spotlight, or might risk learning something.
Meanwhile, if you care more about this subject than Senator Whitehouse does, you might want to look at Furth’s most recent report on the subject, or at the data set he’s posted online, or at his most recent blog post calling Paul Krugman to account for misinterpreting some of these numbers.
Let’s be clear at one thing here: There is surely room for legitimate disagreement about some of the interpretations in Furth’s testimony and his report. But there is no room at all for legitimate disagreement about what the numbers are. Furth got it right. Whitehouse, Krugman, and several journalists got it wrong — and covered their mistakes with vicious attacks on the guy who got it right. None of them has bothered to apologize. None of them bothered to show up for last week’s event where, if they’d had any actual interest in the truth, they could have participated and helped to set the record straight. At long last, have they no decency?