From Dr Dov Frishberg.

Sir, In “Death by strangling: the demise of state spending” (December 16), Jeffrey Sachs claims that President Barack Obama’s “entire economic programme rests on a fiscal fallacy”. In fact, Prof Sachs’s claim itself is based on a fallacy. Here in the former colonies where we are enamoured with brevity, we say that the states of our union “educate, medicate and incarcerate”. Lack of fiscal support for the first two at federal level is what Prof Sachs offers as of proof that President Obama’s insufficient efforts to tax and spend on these are the reason he is, supposedly, leading an economically lagging nation. The truth is that in these three categories across the US growth has exceeded the European average and is on par with the Scandinavian experience that he so admires.

The United States of America are, to paraphrase slightly (and another shorthand!), “50 experiments in democracy”. If they all choose to refuse to transfer payments to their underclass so as to prop them up into the middle class à la Scandinavia, then that is their prerogative. It is not a failure, but a cultural choice, one reflecting social views and values.

Particularly galling in this discussion is Prof Sachs’s statement that “affluent people get their children through college; poor families do not”. The statistical truth for American society is that educated people get their children “through college”. Money has nothing to do with it. This writer is an example. While my parents had no means to finance any education, they were highly educated. I received my PhD from the same department in which Prof Sachs holds tenure, and I am yet to pay a penny on tuition anywhere. I even got paid a bit from correcting students’ homework for a few hours a week.

As I live across the street from Prof Sachs’s place of work it would be easy enough for him to see for himself that I am no worse for the wear. Any time, Prof Sachs. My treat.

Dov Frishberg, Executive Director, CoreAnalysis, New York, NY, US

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