Friday, April 17, 2009

Krugman and the Tea Parties

The Tea Parties, and Tax Day, came and went Wednesday. The Tea Parties were reasonably well attended, with something like 250,000 protesters showing up across the nation. Protests aren’t my thing (I can think of many more useful ways of spending my time), and the only way I’d go to one of these protests would be out of curiosity on a day in which I had nothing else to do (those days are rare), but those who did go seemed satisfied.

The conservative media gave the Tea Parties lots of praise, just as one would expect. Predictably, Fox News gave the protests positive coverage, while CNN and MSNBC provided negative coverage. The worst were the “teabagging” jokes (a reference to a sexual act) on CNN and MSNBC, which are really staggeringly unfunny. All that was exactly what you would expect.

What was unexpected, at least to me, was the reaction of prominent liberals. No one could expect that they would like or approve of the protests. But the typical liberal reaction was much more vehement, and much more worried, than I expected them to be. They seemed almost…afraid.

One example of this is Paul Krugman. Krugman is the farthest thing from a hack, or an extremist. He has won a Nobel Prize, and is a respected columnist for the New York Times. He’s a scholar—other economists take his work seriously.

But his pre-Tea Parties column was just stupid. Some of his points are, in my opinion, wrong, but definitely debatable, so I’ll grant that saying that the only true policy debates are within the Democratic Party, that the Tea Parties are embarrassing and fit for mockery, and that the GOP “looked as crazy 10 or 15 years ago as it does now” are points that are at least arguable. And while Krugman is unfair in picking out isolated examples of unadulterated craziness (Obama birth certificate Truthers) in order to smear the whole movement, that “guilt by association” strategy is merely unfair, not stupid.

But without including all that, there is still plenty of stupidity in Krugman’s article. He tries to link those isolated idiots who are convinced that Obama is ineligible for the presidency with the mainstream of the Republican party, providing a convoluted parallel which compares the birth certificate people to Vince Foster conspiracy theorists, and the Vince Foster theorists to Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh once (irresponsibly) suggested that possibly the theories surrounding Foster’s death had some truth, which in Krugman’s mind apparently translates into Limbaugh relentlessly pushing those theories.

Krugman expanded on his anti-Rush theme, comparing the apologies he has extracted from those Republicans foolish enough to criticize him to Stalinist show trials, which is unfair on many levels. He says that while it is “new to have a talk show host in that role” (apparently, no editors at the New York Times noticed that “that role” was never defined), such party discipline is nothing new. Apparently, Stalinist show trials are business as usual for Republicans.

The rest is more of the same—Krugman rambles on about evolution, Astroturfing (which Krugman defines are “fake grass roots events,” although the Tea Parties seemed as genuine was any grass root event, and anyway I don’t see that it matters who, if anyone, was behind them), Fox News, and the 2000 presidential election, all of which he relates somehow to the Tea Parties. (Some Tea Partiers protest evolution too, Fox News gave the events favorable coverage, etc).

Krugman’s point, as far as he has one, is that the Republican party needs to grow up and move on. (Actually, he is right, though for none of the reasons he cites in his column). But the fact that the only evidence he presents are some slightly silly but harmless protests, and every liberal talking point used against conservatives sounds inconsistent. His argument would be a lot more persuasive if he moved on (to borrow a phrase) and stopped spreading liberal paranoia about Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and any gathering of conservatives with more than three people.


At April 18, 2009 at 4:40 AM , Anonymous jimpres said...

He does not get it. It has to do with spending more then you have and borrowing from China, Japan etc. and no way to pay them back. They will own us. you can not spend your way out of debt or I would have done it by now. You have to borrow to pay off debt then you have what “DEBT” An economist he is not. We need to stop and repeal the massive spending. If a company can’t make it it fails.
You can put any label on the perpatraters but it can’t be done not matter what you call them. But loosing our liberties is real.

At April 18, 2009 at 3:33 PM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

Your assessment of Krugman couldn't be further from the truth. Krugman is no economist by any objective standard. As well, I'd not place too much emphasis on the Nobel prize credential when considering some of the recipients of said award.

Krugman is a hack; a liberal in the purest form. This is clearly evident in his columns. He is merely masquerading as an economist.

At April 18, 2009 at 3:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The poster said: "An economist he is not."

At April 18, 2009 at 6:52 PM , Blogger BB-Idaho said...

PhD Economics, MIT
Professor Econ: Yale, MIT, Cal,
London Sch Econ, Stanford and Princeton. Soap, please explain what 'any objective standard' is regarding an economist? I detect just a smidgen of subjectivity...
..forget it, I understand..a true economist is one with which you agree. *sigh*

At April 18, 2009 at 9:41 PM , Blogger Daniel Ruwe said...

I don't always (or even usually) agree with Krugman, but he is still a really smart guy. I'm little disappointed in some of his columns--given that he is pretty respected, does he really have to sink to namecalling, which he often does? But he is an economist before he was a columnist, and pretty much everyone takes what he has to say seriously, even if they disagree.

At April 20, 2009 at 9:46 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

An objectivist economist BB is one who clearly understands the relationship between supply and demand (something for which Krugman does not).

There is enough of a history of the application of Keynesian economics to know that it does not bequeath the very results for which it portends.

Were the application of Keynesian economics, in a political context, not so inherently flawed, Europe would have been (and likely still would be) an economic juggernaut.

At April 20, 2009 at 11:39 AM , Blogger BB-Idaho said...

Hmm..sounds like objectivist economics is somewhere between
supply-side and Keynesian? Like maybe total laizzes faire? So was Greenspan objectivist or statist?

At April 21, 2009 at 6:11 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

"So was Greenspan objectivist or statist?"While it is true that Greenspan was at once part of the objectivist movement and as well authored the book Gold and Economic Freedom he sold his soul on that note as have a great many men on the premises laissez-faire capitalism and subsequently free-market principles.

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