James Fallows noticed this remarkable Citizens Against Government Waste ad. As should be clear to anyone who knows anything about Chinese economic policy, putting American fiscal conservative rhetoric into the mouth of a professor from the PRC is simply bizarre. As Fallows writes:

And if you know anything about the Chinese economy, the actual analytical content here is hilariously wrong. The ad has the Chinese official saying that America collapsed because, in the midst of a recession, it relied on (a) government stimulus spending, (b) big changes in its health care systems, and (c) public intervention in major industries — all of which of course, have been crucial parts of China’s (successful) anti-recession policy.

I understand that the ad is supposed to tap into American anxiety about the size of the debt and Chinese holdings of U.S. debt, and I understand that viewers are supposed to react viscerally against a future in which China is economically dominant, but isn’t it a rather glaring problem that most of the undesirable debt was not produced by any of the policies singled out as the causes of (future) American decline? According to the fictional professor’s telling, great nations fall because they abandon the principles that made them great, which is a nice moralizing tale that would satisfy nostalgists of every era, but how does stimulus spending fit into this narrative? Has it been a long-standing American principle during America’s time as a major world power not to engage in stimulus spending?

The problem isn’t just that it is absurd to imagine a professor in the PRC saying this now or twenty years in the future, but that it is absurd to blame the size of the current debt on policies adopted in the last year and a half. CAGW seems to be trusting that the audience doesn’t know this. The makers of the ad hope the audience will conclude that policies that half the country dislikes have something to do with creating our massive debt, and that they will also conclude reversing or repealing these policies will therefore have some significant impact in reducing the debt.