Could Five Economists Get Elected President? Not a Chance.

What happens when you combine five economists to come up with six economically sensible policy ideas, and then use the result to create a fake presidential candidate? Well, you get what the folks over at NPR’s Planet Money called “A political candidate who could potentially fix the economy, but would never win an election.” Their group of economists came from such vaunted institutions as Harvard, Cornell, George Mason University, the University of Chicago, and the Center for Economic and Policy Research. They were tasked with finding “major economic policies they could all stand behind.” This would then serve as the basis for an economic platform.

So what policies does this Frankenstein’s Monster of a potential POTUS stand on?  Five tax changes and one alteration of the criminal code.

  1. Eliminate the mortgage tax deduction – They allege it distorts the housing market and subsidizes the purchase of ever-larger homes.
  2. Eliminate the corporate tax deduction for providing health insurance to employees – The economists felt that the current state drives up usage and, subsequently, overall health care costs.
  3. Get rid of corporate income taxes – Take the money corporations would spend on taxes and have them reinvest it.
  4. Phase out income taxes, phase in consumption taxes – Don’t tax people on what they make, tax them on what they spend. Though they’re careful (and vague) to say that it should be “progressive” so as to protect lower-income citizens.
  5. Tax carbon emissions – Another type of consumption tax that would incentivize companies to stop polluting.
  6. Legalize marijuana – This is the “alteration of the criminal code” I mentioned. Pretty self-explanatory. Don’t spend a bunch of money chasing and jailing dealers and users. I’m going to leave this one alone.

The interesting part comes when they tested the platform against real Americans. The most popular of the bunch was number six, which got 51% approval. None of the other ideas earned above 36% approval. In fact, if you take the positive approval percentages and assume that those are the probability of election based on that issue, then multiply all those probabilities together – you get a 0.11% chance of election based on this platform. Now, I’m not even running for president, but I’m pretty sure I could at least tie this fake candidate.

This isn’t to say that these are all bad, or good, or even unpopular ideas. In fact, both of the candidates would like to reform the corporate tax code. And there’s been talk during the election cycle about capping deductions, a.k.a. “closing loopholes.”

So some of these ideas could see the light of day. But all of them? Together? Not a chance.

Check out the Planet Money site if you get a second. There’s even a campaign ad for their fake candidate.