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The Maddening Times Op-Ed Page

A veritable buffet of buffoonery awaits the reader of the New York Times op-ed page today, from jaw-dropping unsubstantiated assertions (Brooks: “The Internet has made young Chinese more nationalistic.” Really? The Internet did that?) to Paul Krugman’s column, a classic in the genre of “Lack of Evidence for My Argument Is, In Fact, Evidence for My Argument.”

Krugman leads off with a stolen base: “O.K., Thursday’s jobs report settles it. We’re going to need a bigger stimulus.” I don’t think Krugman is right about that, but he could be; I wonder if it ever occurs to Krugman that he could be mistaken? Krugman indulges the vice that liberals attributed to George W. Bush and hated him for: absolute immunity from doubt. That settles it? One unemployment report on a Thursday morning settles the enormously complex questions of national-level macroeconomics?

Krugman hits the usual Times-liberal notes, a bonanza of banalities: “And faced with a sharp drop in revenue, most states are preparing savage budget cuts, many of them at the expense of the most vulnerable. [“World ends, poor and minorities hit hardest.”] Aside from directly creating a great deal of misery, these cuts will depress the economy even further.So what do we have to counter this scary prospect? [What is it with Democrats and the words savage and scary?] … So have we failed to learn from history, and are we, therefore, doomed to repeat it?” As Jonah says, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to have Santayana quoted at them.

So there is little or no evidence that the Obama stimulus is doing much for the economy right now. Naturally, that coordinates with Republican malfeasance, according to P. K.:

There won’t be any cooperation from Republican leaders, who have settled on a strategy of total opposition, unconstrained by facts or logic. Indeed, these leaders responded to the latest job numbers by proclaiming the failure of the Obama economic plan. That’s ludicrous, of course. The administration warned from the beginning that it would be several quarters before the plan had any major positive effects.

Setting aside the (pretty obviously faulty) assumption that government can not only intelligently stimulate the economy but also predict in what quarter the employment gains from doing so will be realized, immediacy was a big part of the argument for the stimulus, was it not? Recall all that talk about “shovel-ready” projects? Not projects that will be shovel ready in several quarters.

Let’s let the president(’s speechwriters) be heard:

Economists from across the spectrum have warned that if we don’t act immediately, millions more jobs will be lost, and national unemployment rates will approach double digits. More people will lose their homes and their health care. And our nation will sink into a crisis that, at some point, we may be unable to reverse.

We acted immediately. Millions more jobs were lost. National unemployment rates are approaching double digits. Obviously, the president only said that because Karl Rove was using a Jedi mind trick on him. And these are most definitely not the droids you are looking for, kemo sabe.

I wonder if Prof. Krugman has the introspection to consider that his argument is faulty, or that his impressive economic credentials give him no special grace when it comes to questions that are, at bottom, political rather than economic? At minimum, Krugman deserves a better editor, one who will help him to offer more economic insights and fewer partisan hissy-fits — assuming that’s what the Times’s editors want. (And maybe now I’m the one making a the faulty assumption.)


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