Why oh why can't we have a better Paul Krugman?

Cite this Article
Geoffrey A. Manne, Why oh why can't we have a better Paul Krugman?, Truth on the Market (February 05, 2009), https://truthonthemarket.com/2009/02/05/why-oh-why-cant-we-have-a-better-paul-krugman/

Krugman’s latest opinion piece is here. Like me, Paul is beating the same drum over and over (oh, and by the way, like at DeLong’s place, my comments mysteriously don’t show up on his blog.  Odd.  I swear I am civil and engaged. I’m not sure why I am blacklisted.  Could it be that I disagree vehemently? Nah.)  At any rate, here’s a taste:

A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to economic recovery. Over the last two weeks, what should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clichés about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts.  It’s as if the dismal economic failure of the last eight years never happened — yet Democrats have, incredibly, been on the defensive.

Now, I think the Republicans are as abominable as the next guy (or at least as abominable as the next Democrat).  But Paul’s desire to score political points at the expense of reality really renders him senseless.  I’d actually like to see what he has to say.  I wish he would engage as an adult in the “deadly serious debate” before us.  And yet all he can muster is blithe dismissal of arguments skeptical of the net value of the massive government spending porkfest before us as “old cliches about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts.”  Oh, and the Democrats, who have never spouted cliches in their lives, of course, are forced on the defensive–helpless, noble stimulators, brought low by the crass politicking of the Republicans.

Except there is a strong economic case–not mere political cliches, whether Paul agrees with it or not– that suggests that tax cuts might work better (and more quickly).  There is evidence (in the very text of the bill) that this has turned into an embarrassing and ineffectual wish list of Democratic shibboleths instead of a “targeted, temporary and timely” stimulus package.  There is evidence that the long-term (and we’re not talking that long-term–I plan to be alive in 2019, you?) effect of the current plan is net negative.  But never mind all of that–it’s just Republicans playing politics (this part is true of the elected officials, I assume, but Krugman would thusly tar the ideas of Barro, Mankiw, Murphy, Lucas, Becker, Cochrane, Zingales, etc., etc.) and Democrats trying to save the world (this part is patently false, of course).

Why of why can’t we have a better Paul Krugman?