Well I had my testimony today at the Financial Services Committee. (BTW, I had bad information; I would've warned all 6 of my fans that there was a live webcast, had I known. I also wouldn't have worn a white shirt with a black suit. Seriously, it could be on CSPAN at 4 am so if anybody captures it, please let me know.)
Anyway, Barney Frank opened the session but then kept leaving the room. (He claimed he had to go vote on something--I guess that's a decent excuse.) It just so happened that he was never in the room when I was talking. I was mad because the other witnesses were going long, and he actually had to bang the gavel. It was really awkward; he wasn't being a jerk, they were. He said something like, "Gentlemen, I don't mean to be rude, but I can't manufacture minutes. You really have to limit your remarks to 5 minutes." (These guys weren't even close.)
So anyway I thought I'd have a good opening joke along the lines of, "Thank you Mr. Chairman, I'll keep my remarks brief, because frankly you scared me with that gavel." Yeah it doesn't sound very funny, but believe me, the room would've thought I was Eddie Murphy after hearing the other guys read from their notes for 20 minutes about the current account deficit.
But alas, Mr. Frank left before it was my turn.
I don't really have any great stories to tell. I shook Ron Paul's hand; I will be auctioning my right hand on e-bay, the bidding starts at midnight on Guy Fawkes Day.
There was one Democrat from California--Sherman--and he was pretty annoying. But even there, I couldn't get too mad at him because he was pretty smug and knew he was putting on a show. But it really was absurd. He was saying stuff like, "Now free trade sounds good in theory, but those pesky facts keep getting in the way. They told us if we had free trade and a balanced budget, we'd have no trade deficit. Yet that didn't happen. And even with free trade, Japanese tourists still keep coming to my home district and spending money. Again, we just have to ignore these facts."
I am not making this stuff up. Granted, I was thinking about my own remarks when this guy was talking, but I'm pretty sure he said that free traders didn't think Japanese tourists would visit California.
I actually managed to get a half chuckle from Sherman. During the Q&A he opened up with something like this: "Last week Chairman Bernanke told us that a 1 percent increase in the supply of oil would lead to a 10 percent price reduction. Now I realize this is an unfair question, but if you had to give me a number--what do you say, for a 1 percent increase in the supply of oil?"
(The context was opening up ANWR and offshore drilling.)
So the other three guys give their non-answer answers, basically agreeing with Bernanke. Obviously no one actually said a number.
When it was my turn I said something like, "I echo the remarks of the other three witnesses, that oil has low elasticity, and so even a small increase in supply can have a large impact on price, especially in the short run. You asked for a number--10.378 percent."
A few people chuckled behind me, and even Sherman said, "Ah, I like the precision in your answer, 10.387 percent." (And that's a big sic--he repeated back the wrong number.) But we had sort of a "Boba Fett nod" moment. (See here at ~2:25 for the Star Wars reference if you're really bored.)
The only real tete-a-tete occurred when one of the Democrats chastised us (the other guy called by the Republicans, Walter Williams of Shadowstats fame, not the black economist) for focusing on supply, and not on conservation. She asked us what we thought of lowering the federal speed limit down to 55 again or something like that. So I said it was fine to educate motorists about ways to save gas, whether driving more slowly or inflating tires properly, but that there are tradeoffs and the government shouldn't force consumers to have longer commutes if they're willing to pay more for the speed.
She said something like, "Well how can you praise a lack of regulation after Bear Stearns?" But I wasn't sure if I was supposed to answer, and plus I was there in my capacity as IER economist, so I didn't say anything. It was awkward, and then she said, "That was rhetorical." I don't know if she was saving herself or me.
But here again, the lady wasn't really attacking me, we were all putting on a show. Speaking of which, there were some people in the crowd who were clearly there to see Ron Paul. I should have brought some books to hawk. Live and learn.
Anyway, below is a shot that I obviously didn't know was occurring. And keep in mind, the baldest guy at the table is the one who worries the most about government policies.