NYT’s Krugman: 'We May Be Seeing The Downfall of Movement Conservatism'

Well, sports fans, we knew if the Democrats won back Congress, even though history has shown this typically happens during the second year of a president’s second term, liberal media members would be shouting from the rooftops about how extraordinary and unprecedented a victory it was. Of course, such sentiments coming from a shill like the New York Times’ Paul Krugman is certainly no surprise. However, it should make for good laughs on a Saturday (emphasis mine throughout):

But we may be seeing the downfall of movement conservatism -- the potent alliance of wealthy individuals, corporate interests and the religious right that took shape in the 1960s and 1970s. This alliance may once have had something to do with ideas, but it has become mainly a corrupt political machine, and America will be a better place if that machine breaks down.

It is important for the reader to remember what Krugman said here, because, true to form, he is going to contradict it later: “the potent alliance of wealthy individuals, corporate interests and the religious right that took shape in the 1960s and 1970s.” Krugman continued: “Why do I want to see movement conservatism crushed? Partly because the movement is fundamentally undemocratic; its leaders don't accept the legitimacy of opposition.”

And here comes the great contradiction: “When movement conservatism took it over, the Republican Party ceased to be the party of Dwight Eisenhower and became the party of Karl Rove. The good news is that Karl Rove and the political tendency he represents may both have just self-destructed.”

Anybody recognize a problem here? First, Krugman claimed that the conservative movement “took shape in the 1960s and 1970s.” But, according to this same author, ”When movement conservatism took it over, the Republican Party ceased to be the party of Dwight Eisenhower and became the party of Karl Rove.”

How can that be? According to Krugman, the conservative movement took shape in the ’60s and ’70s. How did it become the party of Karl Rove who didn’t surface on the national political scene until the year 2000 roughly 30 or 40 years later? Maybe even more importantly, most historians view the beginning of the conservative movement as when Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, which also had absolutely nothing to do with Karl Rove.

I guess this is another one of those Paul Krugman moments described by former New York Times ombudsman Daniel Okrent:

Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults.

For those that have forgotten, this final column by Okrent set off a firestorm between he and Krugman, with the ombudsman responding as captured by the folks at Powerline (emphasis mine):

This was the first he heard from me on these specific issues partly because I learned early on in this job that Prof. Krugman would likely be more willing to contribute to the Frist for President campaign than to acknowledge the possibility of error. When he says he agreed “reluctantly” to one correction, he gives new meaning to the word “reluctantly”; I can’t come up with an adverb sufficient to encompass his general attitude toward substantive criticism. But I laid off for so long because I also believe that columnists are entitled by their mandate to engage in the unfair use of statistics, the misleading representation of opposing positions, and the conscious withholding of contrary data. But because they’re entitled doesn’t mean I or you have to like it, or think it’s good for the newspaper.

* * *

Believe me -- I could go on, as could a number of readers more sophisticated about economic matters than I am. (Among these are several who, like me, generally align themselves politically with Prof. Krugman, but feel he does himself and his cause no good when he heeds the roaring approval of his acolytes and dismisses his critics as ideologically motivated.) But I don’t want to engage in an extended debate any more than Prof. Krugman says he does. If he replies to this statement, as I imagine he will, I’ll let him have what he always insists on keeping for himself: the last word.

At the time, Don Luskin wrote the following about this issue at NRO (emphasis mine):

Now, in postings Tuesday to the Times’ web-log for new “public editor” Barney Calame, Okrent unloaded on Krugman with both barrels. Krugman wanted examples? Okrent has examples. Lots of examples. Employment statistics. Social Security benefits. Federal deficits. Taxes.


Okrent charges that Krugman misused employment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to make the economy under George W. Bush look worse, ignoring BLS research cautioning about difficulties in comparing those figures across time. Apparently this Princeton economics professor can’t be bothered to know the things that an expert like him is supposed to know.

Furthermore, Harvard professor and former chairman of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors Greg Mankiw confirmed such views of Krugman in a Fortune magazine interview as transcribed by PrestoPundit (emphasis mine):

Q: How do you deal with this view of the decision-making process there? What do you hear from professors here at Harvard?

A: There are a lot of preconceived notions from people in the media who write stuff based on no knowledge at all. There are a lot of people who just make stuff up.

Q: So you often read the paper and slap your forehead?

A: Let me give you example. This is as I was arriving [as the new chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers]. Glenn Hubbard, my predecessor, was leaving. I read one of Paul Krugman’s New York Times’ columns, and he said something like, “Hubbard said he was leaving to be with his family, but you could see the knives sticking out of his back.” The suggestion was that he’s being kicked out. I knew that wasn’t true. I knew I got the job in large part because Glenn recommended me. So here we have Krugman sitting in some office in New Jersey making a supposition about what’s going on in Washington and then writing for the New York Times, with readers presuming that he knew something.

Q: Krugman is a very respected economist. What are your thoughts on his transformation into a columnist?

A: I had Paul as a teacher at MIT. And when I was at CEA in ‘82 and ‘83, he was there as well. I was a junior staffer in the Reagan administration. Two members of the senior staff were Krugman and (former Harvard economics professor, Clinton Treasury Secretary and current Harvard president Lawrence) Summers. At that time he was a brilliant economist. I thought he’d win a Nobel prize. I think there’s a good chance he still will. His early work on international trade theory deserves it.

It’s strange what’s happened since then. When he became a New York Times columnist, he decided to abandon writing about economics as an economist does. He’s very liberal, which is fine—most of my friends at Harvard are liberal—but whenever someone disagrees with him, his first inclination is to think that person is either a liar or a fool. It’s amazing to me that an academic would behave that way. The one thing that I value about academia is open-mindedness, the premise that all ideas and different points of view should be considered. No one has a monopoly on the truth. The one defining characteristic of a good professor is to be open to all viewpoints.

Q: How do you explain what you describe as this change in Krugman?

A: I guess if you’re a columnist, you want to be widely talked about and be the most e-mailed. It’s the same thing that drives talk show hosts to become Jerry Springer. You end up overstating the case because it makes good reading. The problem is that economists by their nature—with a lot of “on the one hand” and “on the other hand” in their prose—can make boring reading.

Adding it all up, Paul Krugman has been identified by former colleagues and students as no longer being an economist, but, instead a propagandist that flat makes stuff up to fit his agenda and appeal to his liberal readers. This is what makes him dangerous, because he uses his degrees and previous academic experience to create the illusion that he is reporting facts when clearly nothing could be further from the truth.

The only advice that one can give to folks that actually read his columns on a regular basis is caveat emptor. Furthermore, as it pertains to what happened on Tuesday, it is tremendously specious of someone who considers himself an academician to claim that results in one midterm election are going to radically change history. Anybody with access to a computer and the ability to navigate the Internet should be able to conclude that what happened last week at the polls is quite common in a midterm election.

As such, suggesting that these results indicate an end to a population shift that began 26 years ago is absurd, and somebody with Krugman's background and education should be fully aware of this. We will only know how significant this election was by what happens in subsequent ones. For instance, if the Democrats take the White House in 2008, and expand their majorities in both chambers of Congress, at that point one could start concluding that 2006 was the beginning of a political realignment. But, to make that case after one not so surprising election is nothing less than preposterous and irresponsible.

Come down out of your ivory tower, Paul. The lack of oxygen is clearly having a negative impact on your cognitive abilities.

New York Times
Noel Sheppard's picture