Tag Archives: paul krugman

Krugman shows us why the Left loses, despite its advantages

Summary: This is the fourth in a series about why the Left loses. America’s drift to the Right since 1980 has not only become impossible to ignore, but has accelerated despite the many fundamentals favoring the Left. Such as demographics and the increasing acceptance of behaviors an anathema on the Right (e.g., gay marriage, abortion). Increased concentration of wealth and income by the 1% explains much of the Right’s success. As this series will show, weakness of the Left explains much of the rest.

Closed Mind


  1. A symptom of the problem
  2. Diagnosis
  3. Significance
  4. Other posts in this series
  5. More evidence

(1)  A symptom of the problem

Triumph of the Wrong“, Paul Krugman, op-ed in the New York Times, 6 November 2014 — Excerpt:

The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet midterms to men of understanding. Or as I put it on the eve of another Republican Party sweep, politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth. Still, it’s not often that a party that is so wrong about so much does as well as Republicans did on Tuesday. … So now is a good time to remember just how wrong the new rulers of Congress have been about, well, everything.

First, there’s economic policy. … In short, the story of conservative economics these past six years and more has been one of intellectual debacle — made worse by the striking inability of many on the right to admit error under any circumstances.

Then there’s health reform, where Republicans were very clear about what was supposed to happen: minimal enrollments, more people losing insurance than gaining it, soaring costs. Reality, so far, has begged to differ, delivering above-predicted sign-ups, a sharp drop in the number of Americans without health insurance, premiums well below expectations, and a sharp slowdown in overall health spending.

And we shouldn’t forget the most important wrongness of all, on climate change. As late as 2008, some Republicans were willing to admit that the problem is real, and even advocate serious policies to limit emissions — Senator John McCain proposed a cap-and-trade system similar to Democratic proposals. But these days the party is dominated by climate denialists, and to some extent by conspiracy theorists who insist that the whole issue is a hoax concocted by a cabal of left-wing scientists. Now these people will be in a position to block action for years to come, quite possibly pushing us past the point of no return.

One of these three things is not like the others. For the first two Krugman clearly identifies the GOP view and provides rebuttals, all supported by links (I agree 100%). The third asserts that the GOP is dominated by climate extremists — and implies that the Democrats represent the consensus of climate scientists. He provides no evidence for either claim; there are reasons to doubt both. Certainly the public does, with climate change near the bottom of major threats (See Gallup polls, other polls, other evidence).

Is the Republican Party “dominated by denialists?” In Leftist usage, “denialist” has no fixed meaning beyond “people who disagree with me about climate change”. Much like “terrorist” to the Right, it’s a political tool rather than a category. It includes prominent climate scientists skeptical of some aspects of the IPCC’s views (e.g., Judith Curry and Roger Pielke Sr) — or critical of the Left’s exaggerations of the IPCC’s views, and have supported their view with studies in the peer-reviewed literature (e.g., Roger Pielke Jr).

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Conservatives show us their thinking, not well glued to reality

Summary: As the GOP prepares to shut down the government to prevent millions of people getting health care, it becomes vital to understand how they see America. The answer, obvious to anyone paying attention: badly, as through a mirror darkly. Here we look at a few examples, part of a series about this rogue force in US politics (links to other chapters are at the end).

Going Rogue

The pathfinder, taking the GOP off the reservation



  1. The GOP fact gap
  2. GOP CEOs have the fact gap
  3. Looking at the Right-wing fact gap in economics
  4. Orson Scott Card shows us GOP thinking
  5. For More Information


(1)  The GOP fact gap

Paul Krugman describes a serious and topical problem in “The Wonk Gap“, New York Times, 8 September 2013 — Excerpt:

… the widening “wonk gap” — the G.O.P.’s near-complete lack of expertise on anything substantive. Health care is the most prominent example, but the dumbing down extends across the spectrum, from budget issues to national security to poll analysis. Remember, Mitt Romney and much of his party went into Election Day expecting victory.

… And the point is that episodes like this {misinformation about Obamacare} have become the rule, not the exception, on the right. How many Republicans know, for example, that government employment has declined, not risen, under President Obama? Certainly Senator Rand Paul was incredulous when I pointed this out to him on TV last fall. On the contrary, he insisted, “the size of growth of government is enormous under President Obama” — which was completely untrue but was presumably what his sources had told him, knowing that it was what he wanted to hear.

For that, surely, is what the wonk gap is all about. Political conservatism and serious policy analysis can coexist, and there was a time when they did. Back in the 1980s, after all, health experts at Heritage made a good-faith effort to devise a plan for universal health coverage — and what they came up with was the system now known as Obamacare.

(2)  GOP CEOs have the fact gap

Fools and Fixers“, Paul Krugman, New York Times, 29 September 2013 — Excerpt:

Lydia DePillis has an interesting piece interviewing Paul Stebbins — a CEO who was very involved with Fix the Debt — in which Stebbins acknowledges that business is part of the problem in Washington, and proceeds to illustrate, unintentionally, just why that is. You see, if he’s any indication, big business is completely clueless about both the economics and the politics of the situation.

… {see the article for the supporting evidence and logic}

In short, this particular CEO comes across as completely out of touch with the reality of our economic and political situation. And then he wonders why politicians won’t listen to people like him.

The thing is, I suspect that he’s typical. Corporate America is led by men who may be very good at their jobs (or not, in some cases), but have no grasp at all of the real issues facing America as a whole — the special problems created by an economy stuck in a liquidity trap, the paralysis caused by the radicalization of the GOP. They can throw lots of money at Washington, and it’s effective at tilting policies on microeconomic issues their way. But they have no influence on the big decisions, because they don’t even understand what those big decisions are.

(3)  Looking at the Right-wing fact gap in economics

This problem appears to be growing worse. It quickly becomes evident in discussions with conservatives about simple facts. Economics is the most obvious. It’s a major theme in the comments on the FM website, and frequently appears in email discussions.

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Cacophony about Social Security shows our real political dysfunctionality

Summary: Here we have a wonderful example of the cacophony that takes the place of political debate in the New America, in this case about Social Security. It’s one of the simpler issues facing us: a moderately predictable and fully controllable stream of benefits vs. government revenue — mostly income taxes; some graduated (“income taxes”) and some flat (FICA tax on wage income). Our difficulty understanding it provides a dark omen of our ability to handle our larger problems.  This post complements yesterday’s post about our difficulty seeing how the jobs picture has changed.

Cacophony, from Necromancer

Cacophony, from Necromancer



  1. Cacophony on ABC about SS
  2. Senator Johnson was quite right
  3. Paul Krugman explains
  4. Simple Facts about SS
  5. For More Information


(1)  Typical cacophony on ABC about Social Security

Excerpt from transcript of This Week With George Stephanopoulos, ABC, 10 March 2013



PAUL KRUGMAN: Is it a condition of any Republican support that you have to go for really terrible policies? Because raising the Medicare age is a terrible policy. It raises medical costs, it does very little to improve the budget. It introduces a lot of hardship. Means testing in Medicare is a better policy. I don’t particularly like it, but it’s a better policy. There are other things you can do, other ways you can cut. Even I don’t like the business about changing the price index for Social Security, but that’s not as bad …  (CROSSTALK)

RON JOHNSON (R-WI): To say that the Republicans haven’t done anything is just false. The House has actually passed budgets. With bipartisan proposals to try and save Medicare. The Senate hasn’t passed a budget in over 4 years. Listen, unless we do something, these programs are going broke. It drives me nuts. When I hear people say that Social Security is solvent to the year 2035, it’s not.  (CROSSTALK) In the next 20 years we’ll be $5.1 trillion more in debt than …  (CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me put a version to George Will’s question to you then. If the president went along with either means testing of Medicare beneficiaries, more far reaching, he’s done a little bit already, and also adjusting consumer pricing index for Social Security recipients, would you as a Senator be open to more revenues?

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Krugman discovers the Robot Revolution!

Summary:  One of the great challenges of the 21st century will be managing the next wave of automation. This rise in productivity can make us richer, create feudal-like inequality, or spark massive social conflict. The result depends on our decisions. The first step, as always is problem recognition. Today we took another small step forward.



An increase in the productivity of labour means nothing more than that the same capital creates the same value with less labour, or that less labour creates the same product with more capital.
— Karl Marx, Notebook IV of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1857/58)

Slowly more people become aware of the coming Robot Revolution, the next wave of automation. Now it’s Paul Krugman’s turn: “Rise of the Robots“, New York Times, 8 December 2012:

On the other hand, it’s not good news for workers! This is an old concern in economics; it’s “capital-biased technological change”, which tends to shift the distribution of income away from workers to the owners of capital.

Twenty years ago, when I was writing about globalization and inequality, capital bias didn’t look like a big issue; the major changes in income distribution had been among workers (when you include hedge fund managers and CEOs among the workers), rather than between labor and capital. So the academic literature focused almost exclusively on “skill bias”, supposedly explaining the rising college premium.

But the college premium hasn’t risen for a while. What has happened, on the other hand, is a notable shift in income away from labor:

Krugman, NYT, 8 Dec 2012

Krugman, NYT, 8 Dec 2012

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More use of the big lie: shifting the blame for the housing crisis

Summary: Weakness always produces aggression by the strong, and we have chosen to be weak.  In America the mode of conflict is information.  Conservatives have worked long and hard on their information programs (aka propaganda).   Their decades of skillfully conducted work have earned large rewards, advancement of their policies to the benefit our ruling elites.  This is another chapter in a series about the origins of the housing crisis (links to the others appear at the end).

“Facts are stubborn things,” said he, “and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
— John Adams argument in defense of the British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre, 4 December 1770

Propaganda works through many channels. New viewpoints seep into people’s minds through repetition. Large scale lying saturates our mindspace, and keeps the opponents playing defense — the hopeless game of responding to the latest lies. Today we examine a few of a thousand examples seen during 2012.  Other posts in this series:

  1. Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011
  2. Our minds are addled, the result of skillful and expensive propaganda, 28 December 2011


  1. Paul Krugman sets the stage
  2. Joe Nocera dares to explain the big lie
  3. Other posts about the origin of the housing crisis
  4. Other posts about propaganda

(1)  Paul Krugman sets the stage

Joe Nocera Gets Mad“, Paul Krugman, New York Times, 24 December 2011 — Excerpt:

Today Joe once again goes after the Big Lie — the claim that Fannie and Freddie caused the crisis — and drives home the point that the people advancing this story aren’t just wrong but are acting with intent, engaged in deliberate deception …

Basically, Joe is arriving where I’ve been since 2000: what’s going on in the discussion of economic affairs (and other matters, like justifications for war) isn’t just a case where different people look at the same facts but reach different conclusions. Instead, we’re looking at a situation in which one side of the debate just isn’t interested in the truth, in which alleged scholarship is actually just propaganda.

Saying this, of course, gets you declared “shrill”, denounced as partisan; you’re supposed to pretend that we’re having a civilized discussion between people with good intentions. And you’re supposed to match each attack on Republicans with an attack on Democrats, as if the mendacity were equal on both sides. Sorry, but it isn’t. Democrats aren’t angels; they’re human and sometimes corrupt — but they don’t operate a lie machine 24/7 the way modern Republicans do.

(2)  Nocera dares to speak the truth about the big lie

The Big Lie“, Joe Nocera, op-ed in the New York Times, 23 December 2011 — Excerpt:

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Lies told under the influence of the Green religion to save the world

Summary:  for our academic and managerial class, the green religion offers a heady benefit of spiritual and worldly benefits.  Save the world and run it  too!  How understandable that the occasional lie must be told to influence the ignorant masses.

Today’s sermon comes from Paul Krugman, lapsing from economist to polemicist:  “Who Cooked the Planet?“, op-ed in the New York Times, 25 July 2010.  Here are excerpts, along with interjections of reality.  Krugman is a brilliant man and a scholar.  He has the capacity to know these things, if he wished to.   The first few points might be ignorance, but not the last.

Krugman:  “Actually, 2005, not 1998, was the warmest year to date — but the point is that the record-breaking temperatures we’re currently experiencing have made a nonsense argument even more nonsensical; at this point it doesn’t work even on its own terms.”

It’s not that simple, as explained by Dr. Jame Hansen of NASA in a summary of his revised “Global Surface Temperature Change” paper (1 June 2010):

“Contributions of the present paper include: (1) insight into why the GISS analysis yields 2005 as the warmest calendar year, while the HadCRUT analysis has 1998 as the warmest year. The main factor is our inclusion of estimated temperature change for the Arctic region.”

One difference:  GISS extrapolates arctic temperatures from the few available recording stations; HadCRUT does not.  As a result of the differences (mostly methodological) GISS shows higher temperatures.  See this article by Steve Goddard for more detail.  Back to Krugman…

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Keynes comments on our new-found love of austerity

Summary:  We’re living in an time of deja vu.  Our Af-Pak War repeats the mistakes of Vietnam; Europe’s economic policy repeats mistakes of the 1930’s.  Slow and stupid are the two sins God always punishes.

(1) Mark Thoma (Prof economics, U Oregon) coined a term for the advocates of austerity now (i.e., increase savings during a recession; they fit no current school of economic theory) — Correction on 21 June:  it was coined by  Rob Parenteau of The Richebacher Letter (source).

Who is correct, Keynes who argued that budget cuts in a recession make things worse — his “paradox of thrift” — or the austerians who say that budget cuts restore “confidence in the markets” and make things better?  {source}

As usual, John Maynard Keynes gives us a pithy answer.  He wrote to American journalist Walter Case on 14 September 1931:

To read the newspapers just now is to see Bedlam let loose. Every person in the country of super asinine propensities, everyone who hates social progress and loves deflation, feels that his hour has come, and triumphantly announces how, by refraining from every form of economic activity we can become prosperous again.

(2) For a clear explanation of the issues, I recommend “Now and Later“, Paul Krugman, op-ed in the New York Times, 20 June 2010 — Opening:

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