Skip to comments.The Collected Works of a Paranoid Crank [Mugger on Krugman's book]
Posted on 09/23/2003 6:44:50 AM PDT by aculeus
Paul Krugman, an economist who teaches at Princeton University, is a crank.
Ordinarily, this wouldnt be particularly significant: Academia, notably at the elite institutions, is littered with Mr. Krugmans ilk. Isolated from the real world and worshipped by impressionable young men and women, professors collectively form a base of the Democratic Party thats as potent, in rhetoric if not fundraising, as the countrys unions, trial lawyers, and the vast majority of Hollywood celebrities.
But Mr. Krugman is one of the most influential left-wing critics of the Bush administration. Thanks to Howell Raines, he has a twice-weekly op-ed column in the New York Times. Maureen Dowd, a colleague of his on that page, isnt nearly as consequential because her own column is all off-the-cuff fluff, a primer in pop culture that almost makes another Times staple, Frank Rich, seem serious.
Foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman who ought to reacquaint himself with The Lovin Spoonfuls 1960s hit Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind appears as moderate as the Washington Posts David Broder compared to Mr. Krugman. The less said about Bob Herbert, the better.And the papers newest pundit, the ubiquitous David Brooks, the conservative whos presentable to liberals, is intent on becoming this generations Gail Sheehy.
Currently, in addition to braying about President Bushs tax cuts, the quagmire of Iraq, the conspiracy of conservatives to subvert the Founding Fathers intentions, and the relative insignificance of September 11, 2001, Mr. Krugman is flogging a collection of his columns, The Great Unraveling. Its as dishonest a book Ive read in several years, and Ive read books by Michael Moore, Al Franken, and Eric Alterman.
My natural inclination would be to suppose that a professor, as opposed to a faux-populist filmmaker like Mr. Moore, might at least, regardless of political convictions, write with a modicum of sophistication. But thats not the case with The Great Unraveling, one long diatribe that asserts that most Republicans, including Mr. Bush and his entire administration, are solely interested in lining the pockets of wealthy Americans and exploiting patriotism for political gain.
The book is remarkable not only for its paranoia you get the feeling that Mr. Krugman is veering toward being institutionalized lest he harm himself but its simplistic sloganeering.If this was the work of one of his students, a reader would dismiss it as youthful exuberance, however misguided, but coming from a national columnist whos taken seriously by a vast number of politicians, lobbyists, and readers, its fairly alarming.
Fortunately, even a perch at the New York Times doesnt have the panache of, say, Mr. Frankens status as a famous comedian, so its likely The Great Unraveling will be in remainder bins by Thanksgiving.
It is important, however, to examine this filthy book if only to expose the thought process of an extremist who, inexplicably, is given free reign to spread propaganda in a powerful institution that was once considered The Paper of Record.
Mr. Krugman believes President Bush and his subordinates have transformed American politics, imposing an agenda he harps on tax cuts throughout the book that would have toppled previous administrations.
In the books introduction, he writes: Why dont the usual [political] rules apply? Because a revolutionary power, which does not regard the existing system as legitimate, doesnt feel obliged to play by the rules. Are there hints of scandal regarding administration personnel? No matter: Fox News, the Washington Times, and the New York Post wont follow up on the story instead theyll harass other media outlets if they try to make it an issue.
This statement is clearly delusional. Does Mr. Krugman really believe that Fox News, although the leader in cable television ratings, is more influential than its network counterparts CBS, NBC, and ABC, which reach far more households? That the Washington Times, with a circulation thats minuscule compared to The Washington Post, is the first read in the nations capital? Or that the Post, an entertaining tabloid thats published in the same city as the New York Times, really intimidates other media outlets?
Mr. Krugmans enormous ego is on display throughout The Great Unraveling. In the introduction to his Fuzzy Math chapter, he predicts the United States will soon, because of Mr. Bushs fiscal incompetence, enter a Latin American-style financial crisis. He adds: You read it here first.
He also claims his columns have more validity because hes not a Beltway media insider afraid to cross the administration. Im not part of the gang, he says, I work from central New Jersey, and continue to live the life of a college professor, so I never bought into the shared assumptions. It must come as a surprise to liberal commentators like E.J. Dionne,
Thomas Oliphant, Richard Cohen, Ms. Dowd, and Albert Hunt that they are GOP lackeys.
But Mr. Krugmans relative isolation Princeton is just an hour away from New York might explain his callous reaction to the terrorist murders of September 11. Sure, several thousand people died, but for Mr. Krugman that cataclysmic event which has unquestionably defined not only Mr. Bushs presidency but the early 21st century as well pales in comparison to corporate scandals.
In a January 29, 2002 column not reprinted in his book Mr. Krugman rubbed his crystal ball and came up with the following whopper. One of the great clichés of the last few months was that September 11 changed everything. I never believed that. I predict in the years ahead Enron, not September 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society.
Six months later, in a June 28 piece, he altered his prediction to suggestion about Enron, but then added triumphantly, after the WorldCom and Adelphia scandals emerged, Does that sound so implausible today?
Yes, it does. First, if Enron was the key event of the Bush administration, exposing the president and his supporters as reverse Robin Hoods, youd have thought the Democrats, rather than the Republicans, wouldve swept the midterm elections of 2002. In addition, Mr. Krugman apparently believes that the Enron scandal was the first of its kind. Its telling that his books index doesnt include the names Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, or anything about the savings and loan meltdown in the 1980s.
Actually, excerpts from The Great Unraveling ought to be used in President Bushs direct-mail effort in his reelection campaign. Mr. Krugmans November 22, 2002 column (talk about cynical) is about nepotism and cites the Bush brothers, Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz, Eugene Scalia, and Janet Rehnquist as prime examples of ciphers who return nothing to society. He writes: It wasnt always thus. The influential dynasties of the 20th century, like the Kennedys, the Rockefellers, and, yes, the Sulzbergers, faced a public suspicious of inherited position; they overcame that suspicion by demonstrating a strong sense of noblesse oblige, justifying their existence by standing for high principles.
Perhaps Mr. Krugman thinks that Senator Edward Kennedys character assassination of Robert Bork was high principle; or that Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who like his father is notorious for personal scandals, has contributed something to Congress other than raising money for fellow Democrats.
I cant go on describing Mr. Krugmans lies, fanaticism, and contempt for other Americans without becoming physically ill. But heres one more sample of his Bush-bashing: So how did we end up being ruled by these people? he asks.Blame it on the increasing manipulation of the media and the political process by lavishly funded rightwing groups. Yes, Virginia, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy.
Finally, Mr. Krugmans vitriol is at least challenged on a regular basis by Donald Luskin (chief investment officer at Trend Macrolytics LLC) with his Krugman Truth Squad column, which appears on the National Reviews web site. If you must subject yourself to Mr. Krugmans ravings, at least Mr. Luskin provides a powerful antidote.