November 08, 2003

Matthew Yglesias Tries to Teach Jonah Goldberg How It's Done

Matthew Yglesias offers Jonah Goldberg some tips in how to debate Paul Krugman should Goldberg ever want to increase his credibility from zero to some (admittedly small) positive amount:

  1. When you put words in Krugman's mouth, link to places where the words actually appear--not to crudely-drawn web animations.
  2. When you criticize Krugman for being a crazy leftist with fringe views, do not use as an example any of the many views that Krugman shares with people like Alan Greenspan.

TAPPED: November 2003 Archives: HOW GOOD IS GOOD NEWS? Yesterday in The Corner came this from Jonah Goldberg:

Obviously, Krugman is peeved with the good economic news. But he'll surely fall back on the news that productivity is so high. Normally and rightly this is a good thing, but lately folks like Krugman argue that productivity growth is a sign that we're working existing laborers like dogs rather than hiring new ones.

At first I thought that might be a link to an example of Paul Krugman being peeved about good economic news, but it actually takes you to a page featuring some kind of animated cat. Back to substance, though, Jonah might be interested to learn that this "working existing laborers like dogs" theory is endorsed by none other than noted Communist Alan Greenspan. To put questions of media bias aside, here's The Washington Times' summary of what Greenspan said:

One reason is employers, worried that the summer jump in sales would not last, pushed their existing work force harder. Employees complied, because many of them are worried about losing their jobs, he said.

At any rate, having people work harder in the early stages of a recovery is pretty much standard operating procedure, so there's nothing particularly noteworthy about this fact except that it highlights the generally poor job market that has persisted over the past two years long after the return of economic growth. Today, of course, we see that the unemployment rate dropped slightly, which is genuinely good news. Nevertheless, it's worth putting this news in a larger context. Brad DeLong lends a hand on this score:

After all, today's employment level is 2.3 million lower than at the start of 2001, 2.6 million lower than the president's Council of Economic Advisers projected back in February would be employed today if the congress passed the administration's "jobs and growth" program, and even 75 thousand lower than the Treasury Secretary projected last month would be employed today.

Posted by DeLong at November 8, 2003 03:54 PM | TrackBack


It's rough being envious of a snarky teenager who disagrees with you on several important issues. Or darn near a teenager. If there were a PhD in deadly snark, he would be the distinguished professor signing dissertations.

Posted by: Zizka on November 8, 2003 05:14 PM


The funny thing is, the "Krugman is peeved" line is actually a quite common line. We see it in Andy Sullivan, Jonah Goldberg, Luskin, etc, etc.

All the usual suspects, but I can't help but wonder, where did this splendid notion that Krugman is peeved by the good news come from? Was it something Krugman wrote a long time ago? Was it a possible interpretation of something in a recent column? I wanna know!

Posted by: Julian Elson on November 8, 2003 07:59 PM


Well, I think it's a straight-out lie...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on November 8, 2003 08:07 PM


Yes, but it's also a joke aimed at the doomsday scenarios Krugman's been painting (metaphorically if not literally) with a quite thick brush. I'm sure he's happy that the economy's picking up, but sometimes it doesn't SEEM like he would be happy, given his strong partisan views. I really can't believe people are taking this cat index thing seriously. Obviously it's not meant
as a serious argument. I like Krugman and I agree
with most of the substance (if not the form) found
in his column at least as far as the economics go. But the flying cat animation did make me smirk.
The proper response is something like "ha ha ha guys, that's somewhat funny, maybe even clever, but we all know that it's not true" and leaving it at that.

There's no comparison of this with Luskin's nonsense.


Posted by: radek on November 8, 2003 08:36 PM


It depends on whether you see it as a part of Luskin's nonsense or not...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on November 8, 2003 08:52 PM


Why would anyone care what Jonah Goldberg says about economics? The same fellow who lets Kudlow and Moore post their nonsense on NRO proves only that he knows nothing about economics. But then he knows even less about integrity.

Posted by: Hal McClure on November 8, 2003 09:58 PM


Hell, I'll say it: I'm not happy the economy is improving. Voters vote their pocketbooks, and this administration is evil, mendacious, and incompetent. I'd prefer another year of a dismal economic situation to four more years of this administration. It's called "lesser of two evils". It's perfectly rational.

I guarantee you that people like Goldberg were chagrined at the boom during Clinton's reign and they were at least secretely happy at various national embarassments and difficulties they could link to the Clinton administration.

Is this sort of thing bad in principle? An argument can be made. But I get a little tired of the disengenuousness of claims of "inappropriate" shadenfreude (and related reactions) and responses of "how dare you accuse me of such scurrilousness !" Please.

I can't speak for Krugman's state of mind, and Goldberg et al ought not to. But I'm not so sure that it's a "lie", either.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on November 9, 2003 01:57 AM


When they put together that Klever Kat animation of theirs, did it ever occur to them that their creation was a flawlessly accurate rendition of a "Dead Cat Bounce?" And wouldn't that be an admission on their part (at least on some semi-conscious level) of greater economic pessimism than even Darth Krugman has displayed?

I mean: no matter how hard the Good Professor kicks it, that cat's eventually gotta come down, right?

Posted by: Geo. Harriman on November 9, 2003 04:15 AM


Tomas Friedman - NYTimes 11/9/03

"If President Bush wants to get a better handle on the problems he's facing in Iraq and the West Bank, I suggest he study the speech made Oct. 16 by Malaysia's departing prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, to a conclave of Muslim leaders. Most of that speech was a brutally frank look into the causes of the Muslim world's decline. Though it was also laced with shameful anti-Jewish slurs, it was still revealing. Five times he referred to Muslims as humiliated. If I've learned one thing covering world affairs, it's this: The single most underappreciated force in international relations is humiliation."

Notice how many Israeli and American and European Jewish analysts have taken similar approaches in understanding the speech both anti-Semitic and condemning of Islamic social extremism by Mahathir Mohamad. Paul Krugman helped me come to read the full text, and come to a fuller understanding.

Posted by: lise on November 9, 2003 09:12 AM


Flags Versus Dollars

Howard Dean's remarks about the need to appeal to white Southerners could certainly have been better phrased. But his rivals for the Democratic nomination should be ashamed of their reaction. They know what he was trying to say — and it wasn't that his party should go soft on racism. By playing gotcha, by seizing on the chance to take the front-runner down a peg, they damaged the cause they claim to serve — and missed a chance to confront the real issue he raised.

A three-sentence description of the arc of American politics over the past 70 years would run like this: First, Democrats and moderate Republicans created institutions — above all, Social Security and Medicare — that provided a measure of financial security to ordinary working Americans. The biggest beneficiaries of these institutions were African-Americans and working-class Southern whites, and both were part of the moderate-to-liberal coalition that dominated American politics until the 1960's.

But the right opened an increasingly effective counterattack, with a strategy that included using racially charged symbolism to get Southern whites to vote against their own economic interests. All Mr. Dean was saying was that Democrats need to understand and counter this strategy....

Posted by: lise on November 9, 2003 09:15 AM


Another excellent analysis by Paul Krugman.

Posted by: lise on November 9, 2003 09:18 AM


"I mean: no matter how hard the Good Professor kicks it, that cat's eventually gotta come down, right?"

Sub-conscious expression of a dead cat bounce [no real cats used in the making of the sentences]. Wonderful. We must set the radical right on the Freudian couch more often.

[Like birds more, but also like cats and would never ever wish to bounce any. Really really.]

Posted by: anne on November 9, 2003 09:31 AM


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