Diane Rehm Show

by Russ Roberts on August 23, 2011

in Stimulus, Work

I was on the Diane Rehm Show today. Listen here if you’re interested. Some heat and a little light, perhaps. The highlight for me is the first caller who got through, Gray from Concord NC. A man of superb taste. Just after the 27 minute mark. I also enjoyed when Diane and I agreed about the bailouts. A rare moment of harmony.

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Libagno August 23, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Excellent job, Russ. I assume it is difficult to keep a straight face whenever Diane gets all huffy puffy. The guests seemed to do a much better job at hiding their biases, at least until they rattled off the end of times excuses for TARP and corporate welfare. At the very least, an opportunity to market EconTalk to a wider audience!

Ryan Vann August 23, 2011 at 11:52 pm

I think I listened to this, for about two minutes, and then Diane started speaking.

Chucklehead August 24, 2011 at 12:58 am

Random thoughts while listening…
Diane Rehm : “Allot of people have criticized the president for not coming out more strongly against what he faced on raising the debt ceiling limit on not taking a stronger position pro the people, if you will.” What? Who where they polling when majorities were against raising the debt ceiling, machines?
I am always perplexed by the insufficient demand arguments. Demand is there, just not at these prices. Prices must drop so markets can clear. It seems everyone wants construction jobs to recover, but we have a decade supply surplus in housing, so don’t buy a new hammer just yet.
Rent seeking caller, pay my mortgage and buy cars from my state.
Great point about bailing out the richest people in human history.
Again with the typical tarp defense, we had to, if we just issue more regulations, it won’t happen again. B.S.
Caller :Evil developers drove up housing prices and somehow forced inflated houses on unsuspecting buyers. It not buyers fault, it is the result of investors greed, not buyers greed. Billy did it too.
The CNBC guy seems to have a clue.
Diane could not hold a job at any free market radio station. She sounds like she just had a stroke before the show. Russ Roberts was again the smartest guy in the room. It kind of reminded me of the John Roberts conformation hearings. Maybe they are related.
Finally, what ever is decided in a spending cutting plan, government money for NPR has got to go. It is just a big government cheerleader.

Dan J August 24, 2011 at 1:39 am

NPR plays to it’s greatest donor – big govt and Soros.

muirgeo August 24, 2011 at 1:58 am

NPR listeners are more educated and more informed on the issues then people who get their news elsewhere.

Dan J August 24, 2011 at 2:07 am

HAHAHAHA…….. Maybe, you would like to quote Daily Show John Stewart on ‘all the polls show that Fox viewers are thee most misinformed’, and base this assertion on the Univ. Of Maryland (mis)study of such nonsense. The study has since been discredited as the polling was done with value based questions, meaning that if the pollster did not like your response they marked misinformed.
Do NPR listeners still think FDR is in office, the corrupt dirtbag that he was?

? August 24, 2011 at 3:24 am

Muirgeo, Really?

Anotherphil August 24, 2011 at 11:17 am

You confuse education with inculcation. Its sort of how we think and you just repeat your ritual incantations.

Chucklehead August 24, 2011 at 12:17 pm

NPR listeners are Naive Parasitic Rentseekers, except for that first caller, who listened because RR was on the air.

Economic Freedom August 24, 2011 at 5:54 pm

NPR listeners are more educated and more informed on the issues then people who get their news elsewhere.

Yes, I hear that a lot. But only from them.

muirgeo August 24, 2011 at 8:16 pm

It’s great programming and great reporting. I challenge anyone to tell what main stream media source they listen to that is better? Rush Limbaugh….LOL.

Greg Webb August 25, 2011 at 12:05 am

LOL! George, don’t be part of the condescending left. It never works out. The 2007 PEW Political Knowledge Poll showed that listeners of the Rush Limbaugh Show were in the high knowledge group as were listeners of NPR…and FOX News.

Economic Freedom August 25, 2011 at 2:35 am

It’s great programming and great reporting.

And some of the best propaganda tax money can buy.

No wonder you’re so consistently misinformed about everything.

Economic Freedom August 25, 2011 at 2:29 am

@ Greg Webb:

don’t be part of the condescending left.

That’s a redundancy.

Greg Webb August 26, 2011 at 10:39 am


Jim August 25, 2011 at 8:30 am

Prove it, that’s total BS and completely subjective.

Ryan Vann August 30, 2011 at 12:29 am

Well they claim to listen to NPR in order to appear informed. Anyway, the national treasure (NPR) is one big advertisement, and anyone who actually pays attention would know this.

Chucklehead August 24, 2011 at 1:02 am

By the way, do you get download data from the econtalk podcasts? Do you know how many listeners you get directly or through Itunes? Is it encoded for Arbitron? Just curious.

Majuscule August 24, 2011 at 1:31 am

Diane Rehm has spasmodic dysphonia; it affects the muscles of the larynx (HT Wikipedia). I understand she can’t control it, but she honestly needs to reassess her career. She may have had a great radio voice in her younger days (I’d never heard of her until tonight), but I couldn’t make it past the introduction.

Daniel Kuehn August 24, 2011 at 6:31 am

A lot of her listeners like it. I don’t mind it, actually – it’s kind of soothing/grandmotherly (which I suppose is unfortunate for her because she sounds older than she actually is). Apparently she did reassess her career and was planning on quitting, but lots of people told her they liked how distinct her voice was and insisted she didn’t.

Nicolas Martin August 24, 2011 at 11:45 am

I agree. I find her voice tolerable. It is sad to read the superficial cheap shots about someone who has a physical abnormality. Supporters of free markets are apparently no less cruel than other people. It is refreshing to listen to someone who isn’t a polished talking head.

Ken August 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm

It is sad to read that you think having a good voice is superficial when working in radio. Feels good to be smug. Thanks for the example.


Ed August 24, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Why is this even an issue to discuss. If you don’t like listening to her then don’t. Problem solved.

argosyjones August 24, 2011 at 3:10 pm

I’ll take Dianne Rehm’s voice over Mark Levin any day of the week.

Ken August 24, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I had never heard of Dianne Rehm until today and wouldn’t know who she was if I saw her or heard her. I was merely pointing out Nicolas’s irritating smugness.


Ryan Vann August 30, 2011 at 12:31 am

What an aptly named affliction. I kind of feel like a jerk for making light of it in the second comment now.

ben August 24, 2011 at 1:50 am

Dear lord, how old is Diane Rehm? Or is my player broken? Or has my speaker burst?

Dan J August 24, 2011 at 2:09 am

Ever seen that movie with Dennis Quaid and the HAM radio that could transcend time and talk to is younger self?

oversexed August 24, 2011 at 5:00 am

You are both (all) ageist juveniles.

ben August 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Ha again. Lighten up.

Dan J August 25, 2011 at 2:11 pm


ben August 24, 2011 at 5:25 pm


MWG August 24, 2011 at 2:19 am

Great job Russ. I’m always amazed at the patience you’re able to display during these debates.

Mark August 24, 2011 at 2:41 am

This is the equivalent panel discussion, as produced by the onion:


Jon August 24, 2011 at 3:47 am

Excellent Russ! I’m a manager in the infrastructure sector designing these bridges, levies, and roads that everyone is talking about. Your point is correct regarding the difficulty in moving design and construction labor from residential to large public works projects. Engineers and contractors who design and construct residential buildings have a far different skill set from those who focus on roads, levies, and bridges. We knew the last infrastructure stimulus was short lived, thus we didn’t hire — and we certainly didn’t hire home builders, which would have required years to train.

VPrime August 24, 2011 at 7:39 am

You are a brave man, Russ. As a long-time DC-area resident, I have had a long, long antipathy for Ms. Rehm’s apparent narrowness of mind and hostility to rational economic thought. I couldn’t help but think of Tennyson when I picture you walking into that studio:

“Cannon to right of them,
to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d & thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.”

Well done!

Ken Stevens August 24, 2011 at 7:46 am

Is a non-flash version available for iPhone/iPad users?

Speedmaster August 24, 2011 at 7:55 am

Listening now. Dr. Roberts, you have the patience of a saint. ;-)

Speedmaster August 24, 2011 at 8:19 am

Ms. Zanny Minton Beddoes is insufferable.

Gareth August 24, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Ungh, I agree completely. I felt like nearly everything she said was dumb.

She said something about taking the middle ground in the aggregate demand debate and then promptly took a side.

She said something about having a diverse set of opinions yet she said multiple times how she agrees with person x. From my perspective it was Russ Vs. Not diverse at all.

Finally she chimed in with I agree it’s time to stop coming up with ideas and it’s time to start doing something. *Insert Expletive of choice*

Russ I imagine you and George Will have similar experiences when you go on these shows. It’s you vs the panel and the referee is the most adversarial of the bunch.

Speedmaster August 24, 2011 at 8:22 am
Invisible Backhand August 24, 2011 at 10:54 am

Thanks. I wish we heard more of the Russ Roberts from that interview around cafehayek. He actually said this:

“Well, I’m certainly against those tax policies. I’m against subsidies to exporting, which are a mistake. I think we have to keep in mind that government doesn’t do always what we want. It does what powerful people want and powerful corporations.

Russ Roberts August 24, 2011 at 11:46 am

You’re a bore, IB. And a troll. The fact that you’ve bolded that quote shows how little you care about what we really believe and write about here at the Cafe. Folks, please ignore the troll.

Invisible Backhand August 24, 2011 at 12:32 pm

While you’re here, what would an austrian/hayekian/monetarist do about the USA’s current economic problems?

Chucklehead August 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm

“When you’re in a hole, stop digging. Stop running deficits of over 1.5 trillion dollars. Act like grownups and get your fiscal house in order. Stop spending 25% of what we produce. Stop wasting my money and giving it to your friends. Stop passing legislation that makes it hard to figure out what the rules of the game are going to be. Get out of the way. Make government smaller and give us a chance to do what comes naturally—seeking ways to make profit, avoid loss and work together. That is the only sustainable path to prosperity.”

Ken August 24, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Reading fail. You’ve asked that question multiple times this week and it has been answered. Are you just too lazy to read the answers or too stupid to understand them?


veritasrex August 24, 2011 at 10:09 am

Dr. Roberts, I lost a bet that you would recite the famous Hayek quote regarding the curious task of economics. It was certainly appropriate based on everything I heard from the central planners on the radio show. A lot of what you said reminded me of your testimony to Congress about the bailouts. Great job!

RobH August 24, 2011 at 10:39 am

Even though I don’t agree with Diane Rehm on most points ideologically, I find that she is often a better interviewer than most. She says more with fewer words and actually allows her guests to talk.

Chucklehead August 24, 2011 at 12:32 pm

True, and she did make the effort to give everyone time.

James Strong August 24, 2011 at 10:45 am

While her voice problems are distracting (and a little tragic may I say), it is also in a certain sense a positive in my opinion. She’s well aware of it, and as a result she probably has less of an impulse to interrupt her guests to interject some comment.

One of the biggest problems I have with mainstream media is that the reporters are – constantly – interrupting their guests to make some comment of their own, when, in reality, it is the guest that is informed and knows what he/she is talking about.

One of the things I most like about both you Russ and this lady is that you let guests make their full point and talk :) .

Chucklehead August 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm

When Russ does interrupt on Econtalk, it is for background, to fill in blanks for listeners who may not understand the subject.. Although when he has close friends on, it becomes a conversation rather than a interview. Those can be the most fun.

HaywoodU August 24, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I catch her show several times a week and I disagree. More often than not I find that she interjects when her guests are speaking.

Maybe we listen at different times.

Talk of the Nation sets the standard for not cutting off guests and callers.

Damian August 24, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Russ – you sounded a bit negative / pessimistic throughout the piece. I understand the frame of mind completely, but I think you do much better when you inject a little more humor into your discussions.

Martin Brock August 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm

I’m listening now, and the conversation is largely confined to the typical list of false choices. Should we bail out some underwater mortgage holders and not others? No. We could instead offer every residential homeowner a non-recourse mortgage, retroactively, and let bond holders take the losses as people move out of their underwater houses.

People who don’t want a foreclosure on their credit record can stay where they are, but people inviting foreclosure under these circumstances would find plenty of credit in a free credit market, all else being equal.

This policy is nominally “unfair” to bondholders who bought bonds backing mortgages with recourse to assets other than the house, but these bondholders have already been bailed out once, and few of them cried then. Everyone is happy to change the terms of a contract when the change benefits them.

Greg Webb August 25, 2011 at 12:09 am

Excellent interview, Russ! Don’t let the Trolls get you down.

Chucklehead August 25, 2011 at 3:59 am

“It would have been much better, much better to have bailed out individual consumers and let those people on Wall Street go out of business, which is what we should have done.” I largely agree. Goldman Sachs and Citi should have gone out of business, but what about depositors? Now, mom and pop are covered by FDIC, but what about IBM with $900,000,000.00 in their Citi sweep account to cover expenses for the month. Would they only get $250.000 back, or would you give them a haircut of 10%? Who pays the difference?

Chucklehead August 25, 2011 at 4:18 am

Some classic comments from the Naive Parasitic Rentseekers:
“I said, I think we’re in kind of a tough spot. I think we need careers. And I think we could have possibly missed the chance to build on that. I think if the stimulus money had been taken, starting right with the first stimulus with George W. Bush, had been taken, all of it combined and divided amongst the mortgage holders with stipulations that they must pay off or pay down their mortgage to the, you know, fullest extent they can, and then if there’s monies left over, turn around and buy a new Ford, General Motors or Chrysler vehicle and then go out and spend the rest. And if, for those people that have mortgages left over after paying down — you know, they didn’t spend all their money on their mortgage — then put pressure on the banks to refinance them so that their mortgage payments are more manageable. You would have had trucking moving because there would have been products being purchased everywhere. You would have had — you know, it would have created all kinds of movement.”
“I think that the housing market bubble was created because people, investors wanted to make profits. And they would go into neighborhoods, buy up 12 or 20 properties that — in varying conditions. And then they would flip a number of them, say, eight or 10 back and forth between them over a period of time, artificially inflating the prices of the houses, creating anxiety in the market and creating a market for people who would then come in and buy the properties at an inflated price. And the investors would sell them and leave the people hung with the inflated properties. And then the investors would move on and do the same thing in other areas. Now, that’s not our fault, the people’s fault. That’s the result of greed in our economy.”

Jim August 25, 2011 at 8:36 am

So depressing is what these comments are. It’s hard to tolerate people living in such a fictitious world.

Jim August 25, 2011 at 8:35 am

Russ, I don’t know how you keep so composed when there’s several points in this radio program where 2 other guests label you as basically cute and black and white in your thinking. They accused you of being non-pragmatic, idealistic, etc. I’m personally tired of people dismissing perfectly logical arguments with such a cheap slight of hand! It drives me crazy. This show also made me depressed. We’ll never solve this country’s economic and political woes with people like this advising Washington. They only see today’s problems as failures of specific legislation and the answer is more of it!

Kailer August 25, 2011 at 10:39 am

There are two podcasts I listen to every week: econtalk on mondays and the Diane Rehm Show Friday News Roundup, so I found it kind of eerie to hear you on the radio on Wednesday, right in the middle, it was like the week collapsed in on itself.

The format kind of stunk, I’ve never known Diane to have five guests on, I hope she invites you back for a more even fight.

As for all the Diane hate in the comments, I would urge you to listen to her show more often. She tackles a lot of interesting issues and tries to get guests from all sides. She rarely editorializes, and she lets the guests be the centre of attention. In that, her interviewing style is not unlike Russ Roberts. I’m as libertarian as it gets, and I love the Diane Rehm Show, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t give it a chance, because she has a funny voice, or she doesn’t just regurgitate your views back to you.

Chucklehead August 25, 2011 at 11:05 am

Do you support govt funding for NPR or CPB?

SheetWise August 27, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Yes — they can pay for the funeral.

whotrustedus August 29, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Kailer, while i don’t listen to Diane Rehm as regularly as you do, I think i agree with you. i subscribed to her podcast in my catcher to listen to this show and have started listening to others.

I found the format to be OK. it was a bit hard to keep track of all of the guests but i did find an appropriate level of give & take amongst all of them. Different points of view but only a little bit of dogma. i liked it when Bernstein acknowledged Russ’s consistency when discussing bailouts of financial institutions vs mortgage holders. i do wish someone had called Swagel on his suggestion that any alternative to TARP was worse.

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