Wednesday, September 17, 2003

If anybody wanted proof about the bizarre loathing that Paul Krugman inspires in the right, he (or she) could simply turn here. It's a Daniel Drezner response to the interview that Paul Krugman had with Kevin Drum. It's not so much Drezner's own reaction, although he loses major points for linking to a Krauthammer column that works from the assumption that Bush is a moderate and attacks Bush critics for disagreeing, and for linking to the utterly discredited Donald Luskin as any sort of a serious counter to Krugman's comments.

No, it's the comments that follow the column.

It's awe inspiring watching the froth fly. He's called everything from "insane" to "dishonest and shifty"; from a "Marxist" to a "buffoon" to a "train wreck of a man". His commentary is derided as everything from "hysteria" to "unbearable" and "conspiracy-mongering" to the memorable "radio signals sent through his fillings". Pages and pages are filled with fulminations about Prof. Krugman's mental condition and the supposed "death" of the Democratic party due to its willingness to question Bush's policy over (I kid you not) "World War IV".

Even more awe inspiring is the unmistakable fact that there is not a single piece of decent evidence brought to bear to support any of this. The best we get is amateurish economics that either misses entirely the points that Krugman made, backhandedly reconfirms them (as was the case when somebody said that "deficits happen when expenditures are higher than revenues", neatly confirming the point that Bush is cutting revenues too far), or just astonishes in its bizarreness:

defecits, tax cuts, tax increases,
and the national debt
DO NOT have a major effect on the business cycle or the economy. That is just politcal HOGWASH!
Clinton raised taxes and lowered the defecit and the economy grew. Reagan did the opposite and the economy grew.

taxes should be a low and as fair as possible - and they are neither now.
And NO candidate is running on a principled tax platform that is truthful.
(That was an exact quote).

The political "analysis" was even worse.

In any case, the biggest problem here isn't that these guys are all BushCo operatives or stooges or whatever. It's that they are of the opinion that since they (for whatever reason) believe honestly and sincerely in the tenets of conservatism, nobody else who follows those tenets could be using them in a self-serving fashion or deliberately deceiving to hide their real agenda. The whole point of Krugman's interview and book is that sometimes one is confronted with the reality that, yes, this sort of thing really does happen, and there's a very good possibility that it's happening now. Saying "you're crazy, there's no way it could happen" reminds me of those who honestly believed that Lenin's call for "all power to the Soviets" was actually intended to concentrate power in the hand of local elected councils, instead of the Bolshevik party itself. When confronted with the reality, they simply couldn't believe it until the doors of the Kremlin were slammed closed in front of them.

So far I've yet to see a substantial critique of Krugman's basic thesis, which is that the tax cuts and spending hikes of the Bush administration are designed to allow a future government to not only touch the "third rail" of American politics- social security, but to rip it out entirely.

To say "it could never happen" and "anybody who thinks that could happen is crazy" assumes too much. It assumes that there are no conditions under which it could happen (which is nonsense), that there are no people with the desire to make it happen (which is also demonstrably untrue), and, crucially, that there is no way of getting to those conditions from current ones. It's that third element that Krugman is supplying- he's showing us precisely how one could get from point "A" to point "B", and that it's quite probably that that is exactly what's taking place.

The fact that the best response than anybody can come up with is repeatedly shouting "you're a crazyhead", as in this comments thread, demonstrates just how close to the mark he is.

Edit: And they've infested Kevin's comments as well, with much the same rhetoric and results. The only difference is that they keep hauling out arguments against Krugman that the man has long-ago dispelled: like income mobility, and the percentage that the rich pay vs. the poor, and the notion that the economy is bad because of all those durned terrists!!!.

They also, apparently, believe that there's no such thing as the environment.

Ah well, yet more proof that for all their yammering about a self-destructing Democratic party, it's the right wingers whose relevance and insight is slipping. As posters on Eschaton are wont to say, "Smarter Trolls, Please."

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