Left-leaning economists offered a variety of reactions to Thursday night's debate, including pleasure with Vice President Joe Biden's aggressive defense of the stimulus bill and outrage over vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's repeating that the Republican ticket's proposed tax cut wouldn't hurt the middle class or enlarge the deficit.
Absent from the reactions was the sort of angst that swept through the progressive world last week after President Barack Obama's much-derided performance in the first debate with Mitt Romney. The morning after that debate, Dean Baker, the co-founder of the Center for Economic Policy and Research, wrote that Obama was "paying a price for never having bothered to tell the public the truth about the nature of the downturn."
This time, Baker criticized Biden for failing to clearly state that the administration wouldn't cut Medicare and Social Security. "It would have been nice to see Biden rule this out," he said.
But he also acknowledged that Biden made the right move by hitting Ryan on the Republican tax plan, an area where Obama seemed particularly lost during his debate against GOP presidential nominee Romney. "Clearly Biden pressed Ryan on the fact that the tax plan did not add up" he said. "Ryan did not have an answer because there is none.
Andrew Fieldhouse, an analyst for the Economic Policy Institute, dismissed Ryan's economic prescriptions as "supply-side snake oil." He noted that Ryan held fast to the ticket's repeated claim that its tax cuts and elimination of taxes wouldn't lead to a bigger deficit, tax increases for the middle class, or tax cuts for the wealthy.
"This combination of promises is demonstrably mathematically impossible, and the onus remains on the Romney-Ryan campaign to prove their tax cuts will not blow a bigger hole in the deficit," he said.
But the most unequivocal response by far came from James Galbraith, a professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. "When you look back over the entire history of the vice presidency, all the way back to John Adams," he said, "it's difficult to come up with anyone who has done a better job for his president than Joe Biden is doing right now for Barack Obama."