UW-Madison News – As the financial markets melted down last fall, UW-Madison economist Menzie Chinn says he was surprised not only by the depth of the economic downturn that set in, but also by the certainty of Monday-morning quarterbacking from observers of the government’s response to the crisis.
“It’s easy to criticize, but unless you’ve ever been in a situation like that, it must be very hard to really understand how big these choices are, how little one can be sure about what’s going on,” says Chinn, a professor of public affairs and economics at UW-Madison’s Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs and senior staff economist on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2000-01. “The data are incomplete, you’ve got all sorts of people bombarding you with different ideas, and picking out the right thing to do in the middle of a crisis is really hard.”
Still, in the classroom and through his work, Chinn is putting himself and his students inside the decision-making by taking a closer look at the credit crunch and the recession as they evolve. In a seminar on the policy response to what’s being called the “Great Recession,” a small group of graduate students are evaluating, in real-time, the effect of this year’s American Recovery Reinvestment Act on such indicators as employment and job creation, state budget gaps and gross domestic product.