by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It has long been rumored that Paul Krugman does not write the New York Times column that appears under his name. I have no reason to believe that that is true, but I hope it is. There are not many situations in which the reputation of a winner of the Nobel prize and the John Bates Clark medal would be improved by an act of intellectual dishonesty, but this is one of them.
Like homelessness and military casualties, U.S. government deficits are an issue that bleep into visibility on the progressive radar almost exclusively during Republican presidencies. On October 23, 2016, Professor Krugman wrote that the “debt scolds should be ignored,” and that Hillary Rodham Clinton, then presumed to be the next president, should engage in “years of deficit-financed infrastructure spending, if she can.” A grand total of 78 days later, Professor Krugman declared, “Deficits matter again.”
As the kids say, Life comes at you pretty fast.
There is some explanation for this beyond simple hypocrisy.
In her very clear-eyed 2010 profile of Professor Krugman, Larissa MacFarquhar, of The New Yorker, considers the economist’s late-life discovery of politics. “In his columns, Krugman is belligerently, obsessively political, but this aspect of his personality is actually a recent development,” she writes, noting that his work has been strongly influenced by his economist wife, who has focused on making his prose “angrier.” She finds Krugman to be an out-of-touch new-media partisan, dividing his time between Princeton and his beachfront home in St. Croix. Strange that such a life would produce so much bitterness. Is Professor Krugman the world’s angriest economist? It isn’t his anger that is in question: “It’s been a long time — years now — since he did any serious research,” MacFarquhar notes. …
… What has changed since October 23, 2016, is not the labor markets. What has changed is what happened on November 8, 2016. Professor Krugman is simply another cracked Democratic partisan looking for any cudgel with which to beat the incoming Republican government. He was, by all accounts (even those of economists who disagree with him), a very fine economist. He is an incompetent newspaper columnist. The skills are not necessarily transferable.