January 28, 2003
Remember Last Year?

Paul Krugman reminds us of the things George W. Bush said in his last State of the Union Address that turned out not to be so:

  • ...the axis of evil... a phrase... that has vanished from Mr. Bush's vocabulary...
  • ...the name of that guy he promised to bring in dead or alive...
  • ...he assured those who worried about red ink that "our budget will run a deficit that will be small and short-lived"...
  • ..."my economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs"...
  • ...can Mr. Bush convince us that his latest tax cut is just the tonic the economy needs? There are several reasons to doubt whether he can pull it off. For one thing, economists outside the administration, even those who always find ways to praise whatever he proposes, can't see what this tax cut has to do with the economy's immediate problems. This has led to a striking dissonance...

But Krugman's best line is:

We can be sure that some pundits will acclaim the speech as bold and brilliant; they would do that if he read from "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."

The New York Times

January 28, 2003

A Credibility Problem

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Will tonight's State of the Union address restore George W. Bush's political fortunes?

Only a few weeks ago, that would have seemed an extremely unlikely question. Fresh off the Republican victory in the midterm elections, President Bush seemed invincible -- and it's amazing how many stories you still read about his immense, unshakeable popularity.

But anyone who takes the trouble to look at the numbers knows that the thrill is gone. Mr. Bush's approval ratings have plunged over the last two months. A year ago he was, indeed, immensely popular; right now he's not significantly more popular than he was before Sept. 11.

Other polls suggest that the public is particularly disenchanted with Mr. Bush's economic policy. Most voters no longer believe that his tax cuts are effective at creating jobs, and many also believe that his policies favor the wealthy and large corporations, rather than people like themselves. (Class warfare!)

Still, polls can shift -- as they did, suddenly, after Sept. 11. Can tonight's speech do the trick?

We can be sure that some pundits will acclaim the speech as bold and brilliant; they would do that if he read from "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." Whether their praise, and the theatrics of the occasion, will turn things around is anyone's guess. A lot depends on whether Mr. Bush is held accountable for the promises he made in his last State of the Union address.

For there was more to that speech than the axis of evil (a phrase, by the way, that has vanished from Mr. Bush's vocabulary, along with the name of that guy he promised to bring in dead or alive). He assured those who worried about red ink that "our budget will run a deficit that will be small and short-lived." He offered comfort for those who remembered his father's "jobless recovery," which felt like a continuing recession: "When America works, America prospers, so my economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs."

Fast-forward a year. We now know that the "small" budget deficit will rise above $300 billion, and stay there. Even the administration's own, ever-optimistic budget officials now concede that we face deficits as far as the eye can see. Meanwhile, payrolls continue to decline; since the working-age population keeps rising, it's becoming ever harder for ordinary Americans to get jobs, or keep them.

And there's a good chance things will get a lot worse: with markets sliding, consumers wilting, businesses fearful about the effects of war and oil prices rising, the pieces are in place for a full-blown double-dip recession. And the second dip would take us much further down than the first.

So can Mr. Bush convince us that his latest tax cut is just the tonic the economy needs?

There are several reasons to doubt whether he can pull it off. For one thing, economists outside the administration, even those who always find ways to praise whatever he proposes, can't see what this tax cut has to do with the economy's immediate problems. This has led to a striking dissonance between what administration officials say on TV -- where it's still all about jobs -- and what they say when speaking to knowledgeable audiences. In background briefings for reporters, at the Davos conference this past weekend and wherever else they encounter people who might actually know something about the numbers, officials now pooh-pooh concerns about the state of the job market. Never mind that, they say, our plan is all about increasing long-run growth.

Um, but what about "economic security"?

The administration's credibility problem is made worse by the high casualty rate among top economic officials, and the uninspiring quality of their replacements. Today is the first day of hearings for John Snow, the administration's choice for Treasury secretary. One official I spoke to was rueful: "I thought Paul O'Neill wasn't suited to being Treasury secretary; he'd have been better off running a railroad. Now they've picked a man who ran a railroad."

But that's not why he was chosen, according to CBS Market Watch: "He was picked because he's a lobbyist, a schmoozer, a master salesman" -- and a member of no fewer than nine country clubs.

Still, nobody razzle-dazzles 'em like Mr. Bush. Tonight we'll see if he's good enough to make us forget last year's promises.

Posted by DeLong at January 28, 2003 03:34 PM | Trackback

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Comments

Re: "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."

As I've noted in my own blog, it certainly would be bold. But isn't the hungry caterpillar exactly what Bush imagines his tax cuts to be? That is, they chew up any chance of a surplus but, lo and behold, they create something beautiful (supply-side driven growth!) So most likely from Bush's point of view such a speech would indeed be bold and brilliant!

Sad isn't it.

Posted by: Kerry Nitz on January 28, 2003 07:12 PM

As an UnAmerican, a suggestion: once the SOU address is done & dusted and being dissected on all the blogs, perhaps we could devote some time in this little comment space to suggest other literary works that GWB might have read out in preference to what he DID actually say. Americanfolks, you start first. :-)

(Or is this me being a bit cynical...?)

Posted by: Michael Harris on January 28, 2003 07:58 PM

Why does Kerry Nitz think that Bush's tax cuts will have any appreciable effect on growth either in the short term or the long term? I hope that she's being sarcastic.

Posted by: Bobby on January 28, 2003 11:12 PM

We'll see whether the deficits are short-lived or not. A year's not enough.

Most of the Bush fans I know and have read have been saying for the last year that they didn't expect massive economic growth in the first year, and indeed, felt like it would take a couple of years at least to work.

Also, Bush never once promised to bring bin Laden in dead or alive. He said the man was wanted dead or alive. I'm afraid this one only proves that if you make up your data, you can make anyone look bad.

C'mon, the critics can do better than this, can't they?

Posted by: Dean Esmay on January 29, 2003 04:32 AM

Two of accomplishments his administration had in 2002 were from the Democrats
which he initially resisted

- Office of Homeland Security
- Sarbanes - Act

Two others were from 2001
- Leave no Child Behind
- 2001 tax cut

Posted by: Jon A on January 29, 2003 05:08 AM

"... it would take a couple of years *at least* to work." (emphasis mine)

Aww, why hold Bush to a couple of years? Why not decades?

I imagine someone will be able to point out where Bush did say we'd get Bin Laden, at least that was my impression, but if he didn't why not? Why isn't eliminating Al Qaeda goal number 1.

Finally, would Mr. Esmay care to defend Bush on his other un-met promises, ie. short run deficits (after he broke his earlier promise of no deficits), and, job creation.

Krugman has been right on the mark with Bush since before the coronation. Thankfully I'm starting to see other pundits and the public catch on.

Posted by: Dennis Slough on January 29, 2003 05:09 AM

Dennis has a point about "other pundits" and it is hardly a surprise. Bush has been in office long enough that the story on him, and on his programs, is starting to broaden. That's only natural. Reporters are getting the hang of him and his programs, so there is no need to stick to the platitudes and cliches that show up in early assessments of politicians. The NYT Magazine's comparison of Bush and Reagan over the weekend goes some way toward challenging the "dumb" label. He ain't dumb - just anti-intellectual. He doesn't like details. Other areas of the early, simplistic portrait are coming in for revision, too.

One point that the NYT piece furthers, and which even James Carville has indulged in, is an assertion Bush's honesty. It is obvious from the treatment Bush recieves in Brad's log that this is a matter of some debate. Bush surely engages honesty, and other "values", in his image creation, and it is working. However, much of the current debate about deficits, stimulus, "compassion" depends largely on whether Bush means what he says, or is saying what polls tell him we want to hear, while pursuing another agenda. Is he pursuing growth through tax cuts, or enrichment for the rich and disembowelment of large tranfer programs in the future through running up ruinous deficits? Are we going to get a more thoughtful assessment of Bush's honesty? I doubt it. Sadly, "values" seem less prone to reassessment than other early assumptions about politicians. One is either in the "values" camp or not, and nothing much seems to change that. Remember Henry Hyde's holier-than-thou approach to the Clinton impeachment? Hyde, who tried to paper over his own adulterous affair(s), including the fact that he ruined at least one marriage, who took an oath to uphold the Constitution and then testified under oath that sometings one's personal views are more important than the law, went on to argue that Clinton's adultery and his broken oaths mattered enough to overturn the results of an election in which the winner was completely clear. Hyde was allowed to remain in the "values" camp, even though there is reasonable suspicion that he puts on values when he goes in public, takes them off again when out of view. He wasn't the only one.

Posted by: K Harris on January 29, 2003 05:44 AM

Something else tells me that the SOU didn't go particularly well: no - at least none that I've seen yet at 8:45 a.m. CST the day after the night before - post-SOU exit polling proclaiming the anticipated upward bounce/spike in the "Resident's" popularity numbers as predicted by certain pundits (i.e. David Brooks, Weekly Standard, to Jim Lehrer during PBS's SOU coverage).

Not Fox News, not CNN. Looks like Dubya's about to commence, in the name of the American people, the least popular war since the War of 1812.

- Superskepticalman

Posted by: Superskepticalman on January 29, 2003 05:45 AM

Something else tells me that the SOU didn't go particularly well: no - at least none that I've seen yet at 8:45 a.m. CST the day after the night before - post-SOU exit polling proclaiming the anticipated upward bounce/spike in the "Resident's" popularity numbers as predicted by certain pundits (i.e. David Brooks, Weekly Standard, to Jim Lehrer during PBS's SOU coverage).

Not Fox News, not CNN. Looks like Dubya's about to commence, in the name of the American people, the least popular war since the War of 1812.

- Superskepticalman

Posted by: Superskepticalman on January 29, 2003 05:47 AM

"... other literary works that GWB might have read out in preference to what he DID actually say. Americanfolks, you start first. :-)"

Goodnight Moon. After turning the lights out on the surplus, economy, and jobs George W then says goodnight to America's treaty commitments, allies, and the moon then obscured by greenhouse gases.

"(Or is this me being a bit cynical...?)"

Yes. You nasty person. ;^)


Posted by: D "Amerifolk" Slough on January 29, 2003 06:06 AM

I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society.

--Paul Krugman, Jan. 29, 2002

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 29, 2003 07:11 AM

Hyde, who tried to paper over his own adulterous affair(s), including the fact that he ruined at least one marriage, who took an oath to uphold the Constitution and then testified under oath that sometings one's personal views are more important than the law, went on to argue that Clinton's adultery and his broken oaths mattered enough to overturn the results of an election in which the winner was completely clear. Hyde was allowed to remain in the "values" camp, even though there is reasonable suspicion that he puts on values when he goes in public, takes them off again when out of view. He wasn't the only one.

Hyde's decades-ago adultery was exposed, IIRC, by pornographer Larry Flynt, himself accused of sexually abusing his own children, by those grown children.

I'd be careful about dipping into Clinton-era Washington for morality tales.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 29, 2003 07:28 AM

Mr. Dent seems constitutionally incapable of understanding rather simple statements. The issue with Congressman Hyde's adultery is not the adultery itself. That is a matter for his wife and children. The issue is the hypocrisy of a flagrant adulterer posing as a guardian of morals. Larry Flynt long ago confessed he was a very bad man and is at the very least not engaged in hypocrisy. (And, inter alia, note that Mr. Dent apposes a proven fact with an accusation, yet another dodge of the ethically dodgy.)

I seem to recall there was a Bible story about hypocrites like Hyde. Several, in fact. They didn't turn out so well for the hypocrite.

Posted by: Charles Utwater II on January 29, 2003 08:12 AM

Mr. Dent seems constitutionally incapable of understanding rather simple statements. The issue with Congressman Hyde's adultery is not the adultery itself. That is a matter for his wife and children. The issue is the hypocrisy of a flagrant adulterer posing as a guardian of morals. Larry Flynt long ago confessed he was a very bad man and is at the very least not engaged in hypocrisy. (And, inter alia, note that Mr. Dent apposes a proven fact with an accusation, yet another dodge of the ethically dodgy.)

I seem to recall there was a Bible story about hypocrites like Hyde. Several, in fact. They didn't turn out so well for the hypocrite.

Posted by: Charles Utwater II on January 29, 2003 08:15 AM

I seem to recall there was a Bible story about hypocrites like Hyde.

Lord have mercy. A thread based on the writings of an Enron consultant begins lecturing on hypocrisy.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 29, 2003 08:31 AM

"Bin Laden, at least that was my impression, but if he didn't why not? Why isn't eliminating Al Qaeda goal number 1."

In that case, why didn't the United States during World War II not defeat the Germans before tackling Japan's military machine? Bin Ladin, who might even be dead, has not been forgotten. However, the war on terrorism must be fought on many fronts.

Posted by: David Thomson on January 29, 2003 08:40 AM

Bush could have read from "The Dumb Bunnies" series. Same level of gravitas as with his SOU address...

Posted by: jose campia romo on January 29, 2003 08:48 AM

Did anyone else catch this in 43's SOU:

"In each case, their ambitions of cruelty and murder had no limit. In each case, the ambitions of Hitlerism, militarism and communism were defeated by the will of free peoples, by the strength of great alliances and by the might of the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)"

"Hitlerism?" That's so, so... Stalinist. In fact, it's the kind of term that reminds one of someone who trying to avoid any mention of (true) fascism, with all the implications of corporatism and the suppression of democracy against someone who is just as anti-democratic but by means of a different political worldview.

Really have to wonder who's the neo-con who wrote this line...

Posted by: Superskepticalman on January 29, 2003 08:53 AM

Superskepticalman, you missed the best part that just preceeded the paragraph you have quoted:

Throughout the 20th century, small groups of men seized control of great nations, built armies and arsenals, and set out to dominate the weak and intimidate the world. Full transcript.

And here is a link to last year's transcript for all purporses.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 29, 2003 09:25 AM

"Throughout the 20th century, small groups of men seized control of great nations, built armies and arsenals, and set out to dominate the weak and intimidate the world."

Classic Freudian projection!

Posted by: E. Avedisian on January 29, 2003 09:48 AM

"Throughout the 20th century, small groups of men seized control of great nations, built armies and arsenals, and set out to dominate the weak and intimidate the world."

Damned right about projection -- it wasn't like he was elected or anything. Good thing the Democrats won back both houses in November.

Posted by: JT on January 29, 2003 09:54 AM

"the ambitions of Hitlerism, ....were defeated by the will of free peoples,"

Yes, in part. But as I recall the Russians had some peripheral role in defeating Hitler. Oh, now I remember. They supplied most of the bodies.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on January 29, 2003 09:55 AM

I am naturally predisposed to support a coalition war against Iraq. I think that ridding the world of dictators like him is a good thing. Actually, I rather like the other Arab states concept of offering a one-time sanctuary to people like Saddam- offering them a fairly rich lifestyle for the rest of their lives in exchange for transitioning their government to free-market democracies. Ridding the world of these tyrants is a justifiable goal, and I think has a side effect of making the world safer for everybody. If they do not accept (details could be worked out) then their should be a consensus that they are not protected as normal governments, and at risk of being taken out as if they were regular, run of the mill terrorists, with war being justifiable, but the focus should always be on taking out those in charge of inhumane govts.
What is Bush's reason? He just does not provide a cohesive reason. Is it to provide a democracy in the reason (wolfiwitz)? Bush clearly has not made that case. Why alienate the UN as he has?
Is it to protect Americans? Bush is making this case, without providing evidence, and without explaining why intrusive inspections would not be just as effective. He says evidence is coming, but why not provide it to our allies, to get them on our side, and why not provide it to inspectors. It seems like he is just itching to say, "I told you so."
Perhaps they are waiting to get troops in position, and for tactical reasons it has been worth alienating most of our allies. I do not know.
Bush has not even adressed the issue of what an unpopular (meaning little international support) against an Arab country would do to exacerbate terror (in recruits, obvious time-tables, and loss of focus of resources). Perhaps he has a strong case. He has not made it. And he certainly has not explained why alienating what at one point was overwhelming international support. A little diplomacy would have gone a long way.
Like I said, I am probably in favor of some kind of invasion in the end, I just wish our leadership was providing some reasons why they are making this harder than it appears it should be.

Posted by: theCoach on January 29, 2003 10:11 AM

America and Americans have a peculiar blind spot regarding Russia's role and experience in WW II.

I assume it is related to the Cold War immediately starting after WW II, and the perceived need to demonize/isolate the Soviet Union.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 29, 2003 10:12 AM

“Like I said, I am probably in favor of some kind of invasion in the end, I just wish our leadership was providing some reasons why they are making this harder than it appears it should be. “

This might be a very easy question to answer. Far too much has been made concerning the photographs JFK showed to our allies during the Cuban missile crisis. Conveniently overlooked is the fact that our military and intelligence services were able to take those photographs. Unfortunately, the evidence we have about Saddam’s WMDs has almost certainly been obtained surreptitiously from those who must keep their identities secret.

Posted by: David Thomson on January 29, 2003 10:20 AM

Did anyone else hear a loud sound when Bush said "hitlerism?" To me it sounded like a bunch of speechwriters slapping their foreheads in unison.

Anti-intellectualism is indistinguishable from stupidity.

Posted by: Biz on January 29, 2003 10:23 AM

>>Damned right about projection -- it wasn't like he was elected or anything.<<

It is outrageous to even suggest that Bush lost the popular vote or that regretable things happened in Florida or with overseas military votes.

>>Good thing the Democrats won back both houses in November.<<

I was sad at first to learn that they lost control of the Senate, especially by such a tiny margin, but now I am just as happy about it as about hearing that Labor will not enter a coaliation with Likud in Israel (finger crossed!) Not that acting like a power whore discredits and mutes the opposition anywhere in the democratic world. And not that an unobstruced ideological right is its own best cure (however painful the short-term side-effects can be...)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 29, 2003 11:40 AM

"Saddam’s WMDs has almost certainly been obtained surreptitiously from those who must keep their identities secret."

I recognize this possibility, and it is possible that Bush has understood the entire foreign picture perfectly, playing the North Koreans into some as yet unknown trap. But my sense is they are making it up as they go along.

And why not show the information to our allies, and have them vouch for it? Or a Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. Why all bluster and no reasoning? Why not at least try some level of diplomacy?
Presumably, they are going to show some evidence on the 5th- why have we waited until then?
I am having a hard time coming up with a reason that justifies keeping their identities secret when the response now is full on war. Perhaps we have undercover arms dealers, or snitches that are also providing to terrorists and other rogue regimes? Maybe, but it seems a bit of a stretch. And if they are inside Iraq isn't now the time to use them- what good will they be after Iraq is liberated? Lets get a list together of all of the people that are at risk and protect them- if something happens to them, then you have an obvious and universal justification for war. Perhaps keeping the principle that sources will always be kept secret is one more important than this war- but make the case.
Don't make me think you are fishing for excuses to go to war.

Posted by: theCoach on January 29, 2003 11:55 AM

It is outrageous to even suggest that Bush lost the popular vote

If you read the United States Constitution, readily available on the internet, you will learn that US presidents are not elected by direct popular vote. The man with whom Dr.DeLong served in Washington himself never got more than 50% of the popular vote.

Therefore, Bush is not accurately characterized as belonging to a list of those who "seized control of great nations".

Similarly, if you study the history and process of the election's aftermath, you will find that rules of law and legal processes were applied, albeit not in the manner many desired.

Most partisan Democrats, but not all, have dropped the smear campaign of alleging illegitimacy.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 29, 2003 12:09 PM

Bucky implies that giving a speach for Enron is the same as helping them cover up illegalities and David Thompson tell us that the US government can commit the country to war on secret information and that its citizens, being peons, will just have to trust that they really have that information.

What a surprise.

Posted by: Ian Welsh on January 29, 2003 12:10 PM

The President has asserted that Saddam Hussein is a madman who must be disarmed or deposed. Containment of Iraq is not an option. The only outcomes then are voluntary disarmament in a few days time, exile, or war and occupation of Iraq.

Posted by: bj on January 29, 2003 12:12 PM

"I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society." (Frugman)

I don't know whether Krugman still holds this view, but it sounds right to me.

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on January 29, 2003 12:25 PM

"Containment of Iraq is not an option. The only outcomes then are voluntary disarmament in a few days time, exile, or war and occupation of Iraq."

It is extremely difficult to contain a country the size of California ruled by a dictatorship. A Rhode Island would even be incredibly challenging. Constant ariel observation is simply not sufficient. What about the UN inspectors? They cannot even begin to adequately cover the whole country. Just imagine around seventy guys trying to inspect every square inch of just Los Angeles, no less all of California!

Posted by: David Thomson on January 29, 2003 12:26 PM

>>If you read the United States Constitution, readily available on the internet, you will learn that US presidents are not elected by direct popular vote. The man with whom Dr.DeLong served in Washington himself never got more than 50% of the popular vote.<<

I am fully aware that the US is more accurately described as a Republic than a Democracy.

>>Similarly, if you study the history and process of the election's aftermath, you will find that rules of law and legal processes were applied, albeit not in the manner many desired.<<

Is that right? I guess that if you repeat a statement long enough, it becomes an unquestionable truth.

>>Most partisan Democrats, but not all, have dropped the smear campaign of alleging illegitimacy.<<

I think it is to the honor of Democrats to have allowed the country to move on, regardless... But, I don't consider myself a partisan Democrat anyway. Democrat might be the best proxy vote I would cast if I were allowed to vote. But, in the absence of the counter-factual political spectrum that would be if there was Proportional Representation in the US, it's hard for me to say how I would position myself.

>>I'd be careful about dipping into Clinton-era Washington for morality tales.<<

We probably don't share the same priorities as far as morality goes...

On the other hand, we do know now what Bush meant by putting an end to Washington's culture of partisanship. Not that he is pushing through an hyper-conserative agenda, tat' all. And not that anyone who dares to fail to support his socially divisive policies is smeared as waging "class warfare". Nor that people who don't support the chickenhawk rhetorics are smeared as "unpatriotic", be they war veterans who suffered in their flesh for America. Nor that Bush is taking credit for Homeland Security after having opposed it as long as he decently could. Etc. etc.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 29, 2003 12:36 PM

Bucky implies that giving a speach for Enron is the same as helping them cover up illegalities

Not only did I do no such thing, but your asserting that falsehood is part-and-parcel of why I chose the name of a "New Yorker who breaks your heart" as a nom-de-plume, rather than post under my real name.

IIRC, Krugman took $50,000 from Enron,and then penned a piece for Fortune praising their trading/business model to the skies, renting his then-good name to help create the Potemkin enterprise that allowed the illegalities to take place. He was a willing part of the game, though of course I asume he did NOT know about the frauds themselves.

After all that, to assert willing, knowing malfeasance by those who disagree with him, seems, at a minimum, uncharitable.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 29, 2003 12:45 PM

Is that right?

Is that wrong?

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 29, 2003 12:48 PM

pushing through an hyper-conserative agenda,

Steel tarriffs? Extending unemployment benefits? AIDS research funding? Increased federal education funding?

Memo to folks not allowed to vote here: Ted Kennedy is not the middle of the US political spectrum. Therefore everything to his "right" is not "hyper-conservative".

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 29, 2003 12:55 PM

Lord have mercy. A thread based on the writings of an Enron consultant begins lecturing on hypocrisy.

Bucky: could you please explain what Krugman's stint as an Enron consultant has to do with hypocrisy?

Posted by: Nick on January 29, 2003 12:57 PM

what Krugman's stint as an Enron consultant has to do with hypocrisy?

As I said above:

IIRC, Krugman took $50,000 from Enron,and then penned a piece for Fortune praising their trading/business model to the skies, renting his then-good name to help create the Potemkin enterprise that allowed the illegalities to take place. He was a willing part of the game, though of course I asume he did NOT know about the frauds themselves.


After all that, to assert willing, knowing malfeasance by those who disagree with him, seems, at a minimum, uncharitable.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 29, 2003 01:00 PM

Bucky writes:
...
"The man with whom Dr.DeLong served in Washington himself never got more than 50% of the popular vote."
...

Nor did any of his opponents receive a higher porportion of the popular vote.

I think what amazes me about Dubya, is how people mistake his simple minded focus for moral courage. He takes these "brave" stands because he can't imagine himself as wrong.

Example: Where was North Korea in this speech? NK is far more dangerous than Saddam.

Posted by: section321 on January 29, 2003 01:06 PM

Ah, I'm two minutes too slow.

IIRC, Krugman took $50,000 from Enron,and then penned a piece for Fortune praising their trading/business model to the skies, renting his then-good name to help create the Potemkin enterprise that allowed the illegalities to take place. He was a willing part of the game, though of course I asume he did NOT know about the frauds themselves.

He took $37,500 from Enron and then wrote a piece for Fortune in which he disclosed his connection with them and praised the power of markets, using Enron as his main example. A Keynesian free-market economist praising the power of markets? Why, he must have been bought off by the forces of evil!

After all that, to assert willing, knowing malfeasance by those who disagree with him, seems, at a minimum, uncharitable.

Disagree with him? You didn't disagree with him. You tried to smear him with baseless innuendo. It's hard to consider that anything but malfeasance.

Posted by: Nick on January 29, 2003 01:33 PM

Dent,

It's bad enough your pop fly ruined my life (I exaggerate, a little), but now you're ruining my day.

People make mistakes, economists more than most. Krugman was dead wrong with Enron and to his credit, he quite publicly renounced his former position in a very self-effacing way. Call it a Road to Damascus moment.

And once he reassessed his position, he reassessed Enron and found them to be quite disgusting; manipulating, as they were, the California energy markets, gouging the consumers and lying through their teeth about their income and stocks.

I don't see how criticizing them, after he found out their true colors and not taking their money anymore, makes him a hypocrite. In fact, it seems rather brave to admit to the nation you were that wrong and to try and make amends (i.e. warning the public about their 'Potemkin Company').

What I don't understand why you're so charitable to the Jeffery Skillings and Kenny Boys of the world. At best they're ignorant, weasely scumbags who ruined people, while salting away their cash. At worst, they're criminal scumbags who willfully mislead investors and screwed the people who worked for them, all while blaming their accountants.

As for >>Steel tarriffs? Extending unemployment benefits? AIDS research funding? Increased federal education funding?>> You are not only overly charitable toward the Administration's liberalism, you're delusional.

OK, steel tarrifs. He went big with crony capitalism and cuddled with Big Steel. It's old Union politics, maybe, but it's still a big wet economic kiss to the management at US Steel more than the workers. Bush has shown time and time he's not comfortable with a real free market, as evidenced by his economic appointments, his business career and his unprincipled embrace of Big Business and its minions.

Extending Unemployment benefits? Are you mad? He sat on his hands while they ran out for hundreds of thousands of people, only signing on in the face of widespread outrage.

Education funding? I don't know what you've been reading, but he actually CUT funding to the programs he claims to support.

The AIDS proposal is an unreservedly decent proposal, even at half a loaf. We'll see how far it gets. See, I'm cynical about the Adminstration's commitment to doing the right thing. This is the same Administration, after all, that fought tooth and nail against making life-saving drugs affordable (generic) for the same folks he's now 'compassionate' about.

It seems all too commonplace for Bush defenders to engage in slippery, obtuse defenses of the man's policies and his friends, instead of taking the criticism head on. What are you afraid of?

Posted by: flanagan doe on January 29, 2003 02:01 PM

Dent,

It's bad enough your pop fly ruined my life (I exaggerate, a little), but now you're ruining my day.

People make mistakes, economists more than most. Krugman was dead wrong with Enron and to his credit, he quite publicly renounced his former position in a very self-effacing way. Call it a Road to Damascus moment.

And once he reassessed his position, he reassessed Enron and found them to be quite disgusting; manipulating, as they were, the California energy markets, gouging the consumers and lying through their teeth about their income and stocks.

I don't see how criticizing them, after he found out their true colors and not taking their money anymore, makes him a hypocrite. In fact, it seems rather brave to admit to the nation you were that wrong and to try and make amends (i.e. warning the public about their 'Potemkin Company').

What I don't understand why you're so charitable to the Jeffery Skillings and Kenny Boys of the world. At best they're ignorant, weasely scumbags who ruined people, while salting away their cash. At worst, they're criminal scumbags who willfully mislead investors and screwed the people who worked for them, all while blaming their accountants.

As for >>Steel tarriffs? Extending unemployment benefits? AIDS research funding? Increased federal education funding?>> You are not only overly charitable toward the Administration's liberalism, you're delusional.

OK, steel tarrifs. He went big with crony capitalism and cuddled with Big Steel. It's old Union politics, maybe, but it's still a big wet economic kiss to the management at US Steel more than the workers. Bush has shown time and time he's not comfortable with a real free market, as evidenced by his economic appointments, his business career and his unprincipled embrace of Big Business and its minions.

Extending Unemployment benefits? Are you mad? He sat on his hands while they ran out for hundreds of thousands of people, only signing on in the face of widespread outrage.

Education funding? I don't know what you've been reading, but he actually CUT funding to the programs he claims to support.

The AIDS proposal is an unreservedly decent proposal, even at half a loaf. We'll see how far it gets. See, I'm cynical about the Adminstration's commitment to doing the right thing. This is the same Administration, after all, that fought tooth and nail against making life-saving drugs affordable (generic) for the same folks he's now 'compassionate' about.

It seems all too commonplace for Bush defenders to engage in slippery, obtuse defenses of the man's policies and his friends, instead of taking the criticism head on. What are you afraid of?

Posted by: flanagan doe on January 29, 2003 02:02 PM

Dent,

It's bad enough your pop fly ruined my life (I exaggerate, a little), but now you're ruining my day.

People make mistakes, economists more than most. Krugman was dead wrong with Enron and to his credit, he quite publicly renounced his former position in a very self-effacing way. Call it a Road to Damascus moment.

And once he reassessed his position, he reassessed Enron and found them to be quite disgusting; manipulating, as they were, the California energy markets, gouging the consumers and lying through their teeth about their income and stocks.

I don't see how criticizing them, after he found out their true colors and not taking their money anymore, makes him a hypocrite. In fact, it seems rather brave to admit to the nation you were that wrong and to try and make amends (i.e. warning the public about their 'Potemkin Company').

What I don't understand why you're so charitable to the Jeffery Skillings and Kenny Boys of the world. At best they're ignorant, weasely scumbags who ruined people, while salting away their cash. At worst, they're criminal scumbags who willfully mislead investors and screwed the people who worked for them, all while blaming their accountants.

As for >>Steel tarriffs? Extending unemployment benefits? AIDS research funding? Increased federal education funding?>> You are not only overly charitable toward the Administration's liberalism, you're delusional.

OK, steel tarrifs. He went big with crony capitalism and cuddled with Big Steel. It's old Union politics, maybe, but it's still a big wet economic kiss to the management at US Steel more than the workers. Bush has shown time and time he's not comfortable with a real free market, as evidenced by his economic appointments, his business career and his unprincipled embrace of Big Business and its minions.

Extending Unemployment benefits? Are you mad? He sat on his hands while they ran out for hundreds of thousands of people, only signing on in the face of widespread outrage.

Education funding? I don't know what you've been reading, but he actually CUT funding to the programs he claims to support.

The AIDS proposal is an unreservedly decent proposal, even at half a loaf. We'll see how far it gets. See, I'm cynical about the Adminstration's commitment to doing the right thing. This is the same Administration, after all, that fought tooth and nail against making life-saving drugs affordable (generic) for the same folks he's now 'compassionate' about.

It seems all too commonplace for Bush defenders to engage in slippery, obtuse defenses of the man's policies and his friends, instead of taking the criticism head on. What are you afraid of?

Posted by: flanagan doe on January 29, 2003 02:02 PM

Dent,

It's bad enough your pop fly ruined my life (I exaggerate, a little), but now you're ruining my day.

People make mistakes, economists more than most. Krugman was dead wrong with Enron and to his credit, he quite publicly renounced his former position in a very self-effacing way. Call it a Road to Damascus moment.

And once he reassessed his position, he reassessed Enron and found them to be quite disgusting; manipulating, as they were, the California energy markets, gouging the consumers and lying through their teeth about their income and stocks.

I don't see how criticizing them, after he found out their true colors and not taking their money anymore, makes him a hypocrite. In fact, it seems rather brave to admit to the nation you were that wrong and to try and make amends (i.e. warning the public about their 'Potemkin Company').

What I don't understand why you're so charitable to the Jeffery Skillings and Kenny Boys of the world. At best they're ignorant, weasely scumbags who ruined people, while salting away their cash. At worst, they're criminal scumbags who willfully mislead investors and screwed the people who worked for them, all while blaming their accountants.

As for >>Steel tarriffs? Extending unemployment benefits? AIDS research funding? Increased federal education funding?>> You are not only overly charitable toward the Administration's liberalism, you're delusional.

OK, steel tarrifs. He went big with crony capitalism and cuddled with Big Steel. It's old Union politics, maybe, but it's still a big wet economic kiss to the management at US Steel more than the workers. Bush has shown time and time he's not comfortable with a real free market, as evidenced by his economic appointments, his business career and his unprincipled embrace of Big Business and its minions.

Extending Unemployment benefits? Are you mad? He sat on his hands while they ran out for hundreds of thousands of people, only signing on in the face of widespread outrage.

Education funding? I don't know what you've been reading, but he actually CUT funding to the programs he claims to support.

The AIDS proposal is an unreservedly decent proposal, even at half a loaf. We'll see how far it gets. See, I'm cynical about the Adminstration's commitment to doing the right thing. This is the same Administration, after all, that fought tooth and nail against making life-saving drugs affordable (generic) for the same folks he's now 'compassionate' about.

It seems all too commonplace for Bush defenders to engage in slippery, obtuse defenses of the man's policies and his friends, instead of taking the criticism head on. What are you afraid of?

Posted by: flanagan doe on January 29, 2003 02:03 PM

From Bucky's entry...

I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society.
--Paul Krugman, Jan. 29, 2002

Yeah that's a pretty audacious thing to say. Some might say bold. It's the boldiest thing I've heard today since the garsh darn boldmonster of them all W uttered $15 B for AIDs treatment in Africa-- probably delivered along the same lines as federal grants to America's Police and Fire Departments.

But seriously. It did give me pause because every other Krugman thing I've read is so to-the-point clear. I suppose one way to look at it is to compare the Crash of '29 with Pearl Harbor. After the latter we entered a war we were destined to enter anyway and after the former we reformed a huge swath of the finance industry.
Nevertheless, point taken, even if it ends up changing nothing 9-11 gets top billing. So, Krugman is only almost perfect.

As for the consulting fee-- for a speaking engagement, and the "praise 'em to the sky article" I'll have to take your word on the article... for now. But, even that alleged miss doesn't diminish his stature given the clarity he's brought to the public forum. Clarity that was seriously lacking in the US Press until lately. Nod to bloggers on helping there.

Posted by: Dennis Slough on January 29, 2003 02:03 PM

Please forgive the extra posts. I plead excessive force on the post button. I'm sorry post button.

Posted by: flanagan doe on January 29, 2003 02:08 PM

Bucky,

"IIRC, Krugman took $50,000 from Enron,and then penned a piece for Fortune praising their trading/business model to the skies, renting his then-good name to help create the Potemkin enterprise that allowed the illegalities to take place. He was a willing part of the game, though"

Buucky I find it incredible that you keep attacking Krugman for giving a speech for Enron and not mentioning all that money Enron pored into Bush's campaign. Remeber that embarassing video of George Sr. thanking Enron for all the support they had given him and his son. Then we have those closed door meertings on energy and the environment that the Bush administration refuses to reveal the content of claiming "executive privilage.." The foot dragging on corp[orate reform that this administration is engaging in. Here we have all the elements of some very real malfeasance- Why the silence on this Bucky?

The "corporate climate" that created Enron still exists and that certainly can't be laid at Krugman's door. Shame on you Bucky for the attempted smear-

Posted by: Lawrence on January 29, 2003 02:22 PM

"Why does Kerry Nitz think that Bush's tax cuts will have any appreciable effect on growth either in the short term or the long term? I hope that she's being sarcastic."

Bobby, I am being very sarcastic. Hence, the "Sad isn't it". And I'm not a she :-)

Posted by: Kerry Nitz on January 29, 2003 02:38 PM

The sections of the SOU address that caught my attention were offers to assist drug addicts and Afican AIDS victims. Very nice, and very unexpected. Maybe sentencing reform and true international economic development will follow.

Posted by: Tom Loria on January 29, 2003 03:15 PM

>>Memo to folks not allowed to vote here: Ted Kennedy is not the middle of the US political spectrum. Therefore everything to his "right" is not "hyper-conservative".<<

In relative turn, sadly true in America I am afraid. Surely, Lenin was a centrist compared to Stalin. But if you have some idea how bad things can get on the extreme left and right, then it's not too hard to figure out an absolute yardstick for where the center is. (Hint: democracy doesn't emerge from / survive extreme rightist governments either. And the farther away you move from the center, either way, the more discontent you read about the way democracy works "when left to itself.")

One of the things that scared me in the SOU address is that Bush doesn't seem to understand that the right can also be fascist (he probably actually thinks "Hitlerism" was a form of (national - "too bad that part was good") socialism. To him, compassionate conservatism is probably an oxymoron: conservatism is always and everywhere compassionate!

How surprising right-wingers are a little confused with their left and right! The other night I was watching a talk show about racism in the South. A repentent Southerner was telling us how he regretted having been so far out to the left with his past racist opinions. 'Right, you mean?' asked the host. [The audience giggles.] 'Oh yeah, I meant too far right, right'.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 29, 2003 03:28 PM

Sorry about that Kerry. Faux pas. Actually two of them.

Posted by: Bobby on January 29, 2003 03:52 PM

What I don't understand why you're so charitable to the Jeffery Skillings and Kenny Boys of the world.

You have no proof for this.

In fact, the exact opposite is true.

I would like to see these perps, and their enablers, have all their property taken away, and then have to serve 10 years of hard time...as Bernard McGuirk, Imus' morning buddy says, "Face down in the day room at Leavenworth."

They are loathesome, need to be punished, AND be made examples of.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 29, 2003 04:40 PM

if you have some idea how bad things can get on the extreme left and right, then it's not too hard to figure out an absolute yardstick for where the center is.

The sweet spot in the spectrum of freedom [pre-Communist Hong Kong, eg] vs. slavery [Dachau, the Gulag] is not necessarily the Western European model of Social Democracy. It is possible to have honest differences of opinion on this, without back-handedly calling everyone else fascist, Hitlerian, simple-minded, etc.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 29, 2003 04:49 PM

"Throughout the 20th century, small groups of men seized control of great nations, built armies and arsenals, and set out to dominate the weak and intimidate the world."

Thanks for the quote Jean Philippe Stijns. I actually reacted to it in the original with a modest ironic smile.

I must confess to wonder the extent to which this memory is responsible, at least in part, for the visceral reaction of so many Europeans. We hear that there is anti-Americanism in Europe. I don't think this is true. (See Eric Alterman's recent article in The Nation which massaged my preconceived notions.) I think the European reaction is anti-Bush. These are not the same thing. In addition to verbally and actually trashing so many important attempts at international cooperation designed (however imperfectly) to make the world a little better and safer which they fail to understand, Bush's rhetoric has reinforced the visceral fear. Even The Economist hedged on Bush, saying that they felt comfortable with him in the context of the democratic restraints of our system.

I was willing to put the election disasters behind us and move on in the hope that Bush would recognize the reality of his election victory. He has, but not in the sense I had hoped for. Rather, he has proceeded to used every scrap of power he could muster to advance a personal domestic agenda while pissing off most of the people we normally think of as our friends.

Unless things change, this may be the most damaging presidency our country has had for a very long time.

What a shame. It was about time we got lucky again.

Posted by: Sam Taylor on January 29, 2003 05:00 PM

Bucky you write about Enron,
"I would like to see these perps, and their enablers, have all their property taken away, and then have to serve 10 years of hard time...as Bernard McGuirk, Imus' morning buddy says, "Face down in the day room at Leavenworth.""
So this means you want the two Bush's, pere and fille (or is that fillet), "face down in the day room at Leavenworth." I mean there seems to have been a lot of cash for favors from Enron to them and other Republicans. I feel this might be a little extreme, but then again if they broke the law? Of course you can't say that about Krugman since he was pointing the finger at them long before anyone else-like say during the California energy crisis.

Posted by: lawrence on January 29, 2003 06:17 PM

The Enron perps who engineered the fraud are in a different criminal category than those on the periphery. The Clinton White House and the Democratic mayor of Houston both enjoyed Enron's favors too, but were not culpable of the fraud that destroyed the company.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 29, 2003 06:21 PM

Bucky says my "attack" is why he uses a pseudonym. I, on the other hand, don't use a pseudonym to post here because even when I get things wrong (as I have occasionaly though not this time) I'm not too gutless to admit I said what I said. I note also that I wasn't the only person who thought that Bucky was attempting to smear Krugman by association with Enron. If he weren't trying to do it then I'm damned if I know why he brought it up. And what Enron did that was wrong was cheat and lie and bribe and engage in dubious accounting. Associating Krugman with them is an attempt to associate him with those actions. That's it, that's all.

Posted by: Ian Welsh on January 29, 2003 07:20 PM

Ian Welsh says >> I note also that I wasn't the only person who thought that Bucky was attempting to smear Krugman by association with Enron. If he weren't trying to do it then I'm damned if I know why he brought it up. <<

But it's obvious. Mr. Dent lost an argument and therefore needed to shapeshift rather than admit that he had lost. When faced with the fact that a number of President Clinton's congressional accusers (notably Congressman Hyde) were themselves sexually impure, Mr. Dent rushed to attack the person who-- he claimed-- had revealed Hyde's adultery.

We was absurdly wrong, in at least two major ways. The man who exposed Henry Hyde's adultery was not Larry Flynt, as Dent alleged, but the man whose marriage Hyde broke up. In spreading the slur, he used allegations of child abuse by Flynt against the confessed fact of Hyde's adultery. But the fact that Mr. Dent is so irretrievably wrong on so many basic facts is peripheral. What is central is that he answered the charge of hypocrisy by Henry Hyde by smearing Larry Flynt.

When faced with his own hypocrisy, he shape-shifted again, this time by smearing Krugman (and again getting the basic facts wrong).

This pattern of getting caught and slithering away by changing shape is an old tactic. Its primary goal is getting people to lose track of what the thread is about: Bush's broken promises and the sycophantic media that allow him to get away with these lies.

Jon A's brilliant puncturing of the SOTU gets too close to territory that the Dents don't want discussed: "Two of accomplishments his administration had in 2002 were from the Democrats
which he initially resisted - Office of Homeland Security- Sarbanes - Act Two others were from 2001
- Leave no Child Behind - 2001 tax cut"

Let's not forget the famous aluminum tubes which have been declared unsuitable for use in nuclear processing-- yet which Bush brazenly claimed as "evidence" that Saddam Hussein is pursuing WMD. Let us not forget the VX, sarin and anthrax which everyone knows have a limited shelflife and are therefore non-toxic-- yet which Bush claimed as "evidence" that Saddam Hussein is failing to disclose WMD.

Let us not forget the Medicare "reform"-- which uses a model that has failed horrifically, costing seniors a 40% rise in costs in 2002. And let us not forget that the prescription benefit was supposed to have been passed over a year ago.

I doubt that any AIDS relief will reach Africa, though there are people like Charles Taylor who may well get paid off from US coffers. The drug treatment for addicts will doubtless be in the form of prayer. The whole speech was a lie from start to finish.

That's what this thread is about.

Posted by: Charles Utwater II on January 29, 2003 10:26 PM

The whole speech was a lie from start to finish.

Yes, this is the kind of reasoned, in depth analysis, punctuated by logic and facts, we've come to expect here.

No doubt even intelligent principled opponents of the Bush adminstration cringe when they find themselves allied with muddle-headed spiteful unreasoning yahoos.

This really has become the left's freerepublic.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 30, 2003 03:31 AM

>>This really has become the left's freerepublic.

Oh please Bucky, go troll somewhere else. I have never seen you back up a single one of your arguments with any substance, other than resorting to changing the subject. And then when someone calls you on it, you try to make yourself feel better by casting ridiculous assertions.

Posted by: achilles on January 30, 2003 07:12 AM

http://thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=268414

White House Eyes Mankiw.

Posted by: anandla on January 30, 2003 07:30 AM


http://www.techcentralstation.com/1051/techwrapper.jsp?PID=1051-250&CID=1051-013003A

Economic Idiotarianism


By Arnold Kling

"What bloggers are more than anything, I think, is anti-idiot." - Glenn Reynolds



In response to Reynolds, Charles Johnson coined the term anti-idiotarian, introducing a new political expression into the lexicon. The concept has been spelled out further, most notably by Eric Raymond. Roughly speaking, an idiotarian is someone whose response to September 11 was to issue a moral condemnation of the United States.




But the concept of idiotarianism can usefully be extended to the field of economics. Economic idiotarians are people who implicitly reject market logic and instead see economic arrangements as an either-or choice between idealistic sharing and evil exploitation.



Steven Pinker, a professor of cognitive psychology at MIT, points out that it is natural to resist economic reasoning. One of the chapters of Pinker's recent book, The Blank Slate, is called "Out of Our Depths." In this chapter, Pinker describes certain fields where the knowledge that we have acquired is challenging for cognitive faculties that were designed for prehistoric hunters and gatherers. One of these difficult fields is economics.



Pinker cites the work of anthropologist Alan Fiske, who has found that all interpersonal transactions can be sorted into four relational models.





In a Communal Sharing transaction, such as a family dinner, every member of the relationship is entitled to share in what is available.



In an Authority Ranking transaction, such as a decision made in a traditional corporation, there is a linear hierarchy, with people lower in the hierarchy deferring to those who are higher up.



In an Equality Matching transaction, such as taking turns going through a four-way stop, people operate according to an intuitive sense of balance and fairness.



In a Market Pricing transaction, such as buying a used car, people make decisions on the basis of calculating costs and benefits.



Of course, it is the Market Pricing mode of interacting that is studied in economics. However, Market Pricing requires techniques and thought processes that have not always been available to mankind. As Pinker points out,



Market Pricing is absent in hunter-gatherer societies, and we know it played no role in our evolutionary history because it relies on technologies like writing, money, and formal mathematics, which appeared only recently.

--p.234


Idiotarian Demagoguery




The idiotarian approach to debating economic policy is to frame an issue as a conflict between Authority Ranking (bad) and Communal Sharing (good). For example, an idiotarian treats drug company profits as evil (as if they resulted from Authority Ranking) and insists that the results of drug research belong in the public domain (to facilitate Communal Sharing). However, as John E. Calfee pointed out recently, when this policy is analyzed from the perspective of Market Pricing, we can see that it reduces research and adds to suffering, particularly in the Third World.



There are ways to deal compassionately with the cost of drug research for Third World countries. For example, rich countries could give foreign aid that would enable people in poor countries to purchase drugs at fair market prices. However, for idiotarians, it is necessary to portray the issue as a conflict between drug company villains and poverty-stricken victims.



The archetypical idiotarian demagogue was Karl Marx. Marx did not portray capitalism as an impersonal system of Market Pricing. Instead, he viewed it as a mechanism for Authoritarian Ranking, in which the capitalist class exploits the working class. The alternative, naturally, was Communal Sharing: from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.



The Internet has encouraged a great deal of idiotarian demagoguery. Net-heads complain about "Big Media" which supposedly controls "content," keeping it away from the "commons." Once again, transactions that are based on Market Pricing are re-interpreted as Authority Ranking that detracts from Communal Sharing.



In contrast, I believe that the Internet is going to create new Market Pricing institutions and intermediaries in the realms of journalism, music, and other cultural work. Moreover, my guess is that these institutions will not resemble today's publishers, and their revenue models may be nothing that today's industry incumbents would recognize. I believe in the digital revolution, but I distance myself from those who see this revolution as a conflict between Authoritarian Ranking and Communal Sharing.




Sometimes, advocates for Open Source Software speak as if Microsoft inflicts its products on the public using Authoritarian Ranking, when instead software should be available for Communal Sharing. I believe that it is more accurate to view both proprietary and Open Source Software through a Market Pricing framework. This leads one to predict that Open Source developers will lack incentive to make their work accessible and usable for a non-technical audience, which seems to be an issue.



The phrase "tax cuts for the rich" is designed to trigger an idiotarian response. You are supposed to see a conflict between the Communal Sharing of the tax revenue that naturally belongs to all of us and the Authoritarian Ranking of powerful rich people stealing from this communal resource.



A successful idiotarian campaign was the assault on "Big Tobacco." The lawsuits against the tobacco companies were reported as a victory for Communal Sharing and a defeat for Authoritarian Ranking. However, from a Market Pricing perspective, this is not so clear. It may be more accurate to say that smokers are people who made choices rather than victims of tobacco companies; and the winners of the lawsuits were the individual attorneys who collected huge fees, not the community as a whole.



Is Education the Answer?



Pinker writes (p. 235), "The obvious cure for the tragic shortcomings of human intuition in a high-tech world is education... give higher priorities to economics, evolutionary biology, and probability and statistics in any high school or college curriculum."



As someone who teaches high school economics and high school statistics, I naturally welcome this sentiment. However, I am not certain that education alone is the answer. I have to believe that Paul Krugman's education in economics was not lacking; nonetheless, his writing often takes an idiotarian tone.



For example, in his opus on income inequality, Krugman wrote, "if the rich get more, that leaves less for everyone else." This is idiotarian rhetoric, in which Krugman treats inequality as if it were the result of Authoritarian Ranking that allows the rich to steal from the Communal Share that properly belongs to "everyone else." Instead, the Market Pricing model indicates that when someone earns a high income this is because the contributions that the individual makes in the economy have a high market value. Moreover, a high income for one person does not necessarily leave less for everyone else. On the contrary, when markets are functioning properly, high incomes for some will increase the wealth of others. Economic growth is a positive-sum game.




It is not automatically idiotarian to favor progressive taxes or other steps to reduce income inequality. There is nothing wrong with identifying economic problems or advocating changes to the status quo. However, when it comes to economic policy, the public is best served by a debate that is informed by an understanding of Market Pricing, rather than an appeal to idiotarian alternatives.



Ultimately, I hope that Pinker is correct, and that better education in economics will reduce the appeal of economic idiotarianism.

Article ends

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 30, 2003 07:36 AM

"It is extremely difficult to contain a country the size of California ruled by a dictatorship."

It seems to me that we contained a rather larger dictatorship for more than 40 years--anybody remember the USSR?

Posted by: rea on January 30, 2003 07:55 AM

"It is extremely difficult to contain a country the size of California ruled by a dictatorship."

It seems to me that we contained a rather larger dictatorship for more than 40 years--anybody remember the USSR?

Posted by: rea on January 30, 2003 07:55 AM

Re the Krugman prediction as to Enron v. 9/11. It's a matter of self-fulfilling prophecies. Bush and Republicans desperately do not want Enron to be significant, and apart from window-dressing that they have quickly undermined (see Pitt, Webster et al), little has been done to remedy future Enrons or their effects, nor has any relief been provided for their victims. 9/11 and its attendant fear has been a tonic for this administration, and it has done everything to preserve and utilize that fear (e.g., daily terror alerts after reports of their pre-9/11 negligence, and now Iraq). While the threat of 9/11 cannot be minimized, and we must take all rational measures to meet it, the tactical use of the fear engendered by the threat is unconscionable. With enough fear about terrorism, Enron, Worldcom, unemployment, etc. will continue to be secondary. Thus, the self-fulfilling prophesy. It worked in Nov. 2002 and they will continue to exploit it.

Posted by: Claudius on January 30, 2003 08:33 AM

I think Reynolds had a point. Often bloggers can agree that a certain level of thinking communicating is simply idiotic. Of course, this was transformed into the phrase 'anti-idiotarian' which is itself idiotic. It is actually, just the kind of without-reason, us-vs-them mentality then, I think Glenn, was pointing out, but now has fallen into.
Using that term, in a debate goes against everything that Pinker would advocate. It does not further debate, and it puts people into non-rational argumentative, win at all cost states.

Oh, yeah- that has nothing to do with Mr. Dent changing the subject, other than it is Mr. Dent changing the subject.

On the merits of the article, there is something interesting there, but it is taken much too simply, and interestingly enough, Mr. Kling misses the point in constructing two sides, his own blind worship of markets vs. the envious, instead of understanding that markets are tools we can use, not the final justification for everything.
Dssquared, who does his hair in a very Pinkeresque-way, should probably add on at this point.

Posted by: theCoach on January 30, 2003 08:43 AM

I remarked that >>The whole [Bush] speech was a lie from start to finish.<<

To which Mr. Dent, cornered by having lost two arguments replied >>Yes, this is the kind of reasoned, in depth analysis, punctuated by logic and facts, we've come to expect here.<<

Ironically, in my post I quoted four items from Jon A in which Bush falsely claimed credit for accomplishments that weren't his and added a series of other falsehoods (aluminum tube lie, for example) that were in the speech. But let's do a more exhaustive catalogue.

1. The aluminum tube lie, as mentioned. This is particularly egregious because it was debunked in the United Nations report. The aluminum tubes purchased by SH are incapable of being used for uranium enrichment.
2. The nerve gas and anthrax lies, as mentioned. As remarked, nerve gas and anthrax have shelf lifes. Any material declared prior to ca. 1995 would have become ineffectual.
3. The Iraqi scientist lie. Bush claimed that Iraqi intelligence officers had posed as scientists. But as anyone who has posted on the boards can tell you, fakers are quickly evident to professionals in the area. Ticker says CBS has exposed this one.
4. That this was a state of the union message. The state of the union address is by law to be a report on the CURRENT state of the union. This speech dealt almost exclusively with plans for the future (or, as described), accomplishments of the past.
5. The claim that Bush will work for a prosperity broadly shared. The tax cuts and program cuts have been clearly documented to advantage the wealthy.
6. The claim that "we will answer every danger and enemy". But where's Osama? You know, the guy who actually pulled the trigger on 9/11. Bush hasn't mentioned him since June of last year. Have they put his picture on milk cartons?
7. The claim that "we will not pass on our problems to other Congresses, presidents, generations". He has already created massive deficits, worldwide anger at the United States, while failing to address the problems of Social Security and Medicare (except in ways already known to fail).
8. The claim that he has achieved historic education reform. In reality, there is no funding for the No Child Left Behind Act, so what he has achieved is an unfunded mandate.
9. The claim that the tax relief was to fight the recession. During the campaign, he clearly stated that the tax relief was because growth was so strong that Washington was piling up unnecessary surpluses.
10. The claim that the economy is recovering. As Krugman has pointed out, growth in 4Q 2002 was nil, and the pieces are in place for continued recession.
11. The claim that the best way to make sure that the economy can grow and that Americans have money to spend is to "not tax it away in the first place". In reality, the nation's strongest periods of growth have been under Democrats and rather high tax regimes.
12. The claim that 92 million Americans will see an average of 1100 in tax relief is not quite a lie; it's highly misleading. A few of them will see huge tax relief. Most will see far less, more like $300/year. Furthermore, they will experience higher interest rates that will cost them far more than they gain in tax relief.
13. The claim that accelerating tax relief would improve it. If he believed that in 2001, why didn't he propose it?
14. The claim that "double taxation" of dividends is unfair is also not quite a lie, but it's highly misleading. Taxes are inherently unfair, and has been pointed out, there are lots of "double taxes" on the poor and middle class.

...I'm about 10% of the way through the speech and out of time. But hopefully others will pick up this theme.

How do you live with yourself, Mr. Dent? You are exposed again and again as ignorant and careless of the truth, yet you attempt to insult others? What a pathetic life that must be.

Posted by: Charles Utwater II on January 30, 2003 08:43 AM

What a pathetic life that must be.

If Dr. DeLong lacks the time or interest to rebuke you for lowering the level of discourse on his property, I won't bother either.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 30, 2003 09:11 AM

So, "Bucky Dent" has found someone else to call Paul Krugman an idiot for him. What a pity that this someone, Arnold Kling, waffles at the end.
I don't know anything about Mr. Kling, but the material on his web site (found via Google) seems on the whole sensible. However, he's still indulging in an indefensible retorical oversimplification about Mr. Krugman's views. There are such things as policies slanted toward particular interests, and the cases cited by Krugman are IMHO excellent examples.

I'm afraid that placing retoric on an ideological scale, whether this one or e.g. Lyingonponds Democrat-Repulican axis, does not suffice for an analysis. For this, there is no substitue for actually engaging the substance of a position.

Posted by: Jonathan Goldberg on January 30, 2003 09:26 AM

Here is the complete quote from Paul Krugman -

Although America has higher per capita income than other advanced countries, it turns out that that's mainly because our rich are much richer. And here's a radical thought: if the rich get more, that leaves less for everyone else.

That statement -- which is simply a matter of arithmetic -- is guaranteed to bring accusations of ''class warfare.'' If the accuser gets more specific, he'll probably offer two reasons that it's foolish to make a fuss over the high incomes of a few people at the top of the income distribution. First, he'll tell you that what the elite get may look like a lot of money, but it's still a small share of the total -- that is, when all is said and done the rich aren't getting that big a piece of the pie. Second, he'll tell you that trying to do anything to reduce incomes at the top will hurt, not help, people further down the distribution, because attempts to redistribute income damage incentives....

Paul Krugman is a superb and courageous economist and humanist. Whether I agree with him or not on any issue, I continually learn from him and never question his integrity or heart. That Krugman is courageous and so adept at his field, makes him a perfect whipping post for those who would obscure effective discussion and understanding of economic policy.

Posted by: anne on January 30, 2003 10:31 AM

Bucky, I don't see anything on Tech Central Station indicating that they are happy to see whole articles posted on other people's websites, and I do see a copyright notice, so I think they might not. There's no need to do so -- a link is perfectly adequate -- and it does show a bit more respect for other people's writing.

Posted by: dsquared on January 30, 2003 11:02 AM

>>The whole speech was a lie from start to finish.<<

Yep. I would say it sounded like those deceptive corporate statements we used to get from companies the Bushes (used to) run. I think Robert Herbert from the NYT puts it best in his Bait and Switch article:

Behind the veil of rhetoric is a Darwinian political philosophy that, if clearly understood, would repel the majority of Americans.

Let me put it another way: Mr. Bush is a right-wing hard-core populist. I would bet Karl Rove still thinks it's a winning strategy, so I guess we're in for a whole lot more. Don't you think that if the Bushies genuinely respected Americans for all they can be, they would stop talking to them as... What disgusses me most is that Democrats made a standing ovation to the degradation of the American people.

>>This really has become the left's freerepublic.<<

No wonder, it's hosted on the free republic of Berkeley :-D God only knows how long these fews havens of intellectual freedom will last.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 30, 2003 11:30 AM

This orgiastic display of democracy's great weakness—a refusal to acknowledge that more of something means less of something else—undermined the moral seriousness of the call to arms and sacrifice that followed. Sneering at the folly of tax cuts spread over several years instead of right away, Bush failed to note that those gradual tax cuts were part of his own previous tax bill. Bragging that he would hold the increase in domestic discretionary spending to 4 percent a year, Bush probably didn't stop to wonder what that figure was under his tax-and-spend Democrat predecessor. Short answer: lower. These are venial sins in everyday politics, but Bush was striving for something higher. He had the right words for it. But words alone aren't enough.

Morally Unserious By Michael Kinsley @ SLATES.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 30, 2003 01:33 PM

I think it's a bit rich for Glenn & company to declares themselves the upholders of Good Arguments when they all fell head over heels for that stupid "Black residents of Mississippi are richer than Swedes!" study.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on January 30, 2003 01:59 PM

What is the meaning of "idiotarian"? It seems to be for anyone with an argument for which the accuser has no compelling response. Asinine.

Posted by: Rich Phillips on January 30, 2003 02:16 PM

it does show a bit more respect for other people's writing.

I found other entire articles posted here. Given folks' propensity to savage one another here, misquoting and deliberately misinterpreting as they go along, I don't feel too bad following precedent while quoting someone in context.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 30, 2003 02:55 PM

I seem to be noticing a trend here, Bucky. When someone points out the holes in your arguments, you suddenly lose interest in the subject. It's just a coincidence, I'm sure. And I'm just as sure that you'll never try to smear Krugman with Enron again.

Posted by: Nick on January 30, 2003 03:19 PM

Actually, I get tired of responding to stuff that is either deliberately distorted or simplistically selective in its "fact" selection. If you all want to interpret that as a character flaw in me, and spend your time revelling in my inadequacies, that's fine. You are as free to ignore me as I am to ignore you.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 30, 2003 03:32 PM

Am I the only one to find the level of invective levelled at Dubya and the administration out of all proportion to their offenses against left-wing doctrine? There just seems to be an utter disconnect between the hyperbole used to describe Bush and the way the administration is actually governing. It's bordering on pathological. The last time I felt this way was observing the Republican attacks on Clinton in Monicagate, which I thought had lost all proportion and had become unhinged.

Why is this occurring? A feeling of weakness on the left? Retribution for Monicagate? And don't give me "the level of criticism" is justified crapola. The point of this post is to make the critics step back for a second and examine whether the volume to which the criticism-knob is turned up is disconnected from reality.

The Republican reaction to Monicagate caused a substantial part of the voting public to turn against them. Continuing left-wing behavior like this is going to have the reciprocal effect. Come to think of it, judging by the November elections, it already has.

Posted by: JT on January 31, 2003 07:05 AM

I have to agree, JT. People who are not obsessed with politics observe behavior such as this, conclude that being in the company of people who engage in such behavior is about as inviting as a root canal procedure, and reflexively adopt an opposing position. I thought the anti-Clinton psychosis had some utility, in that it drove a stake through the heart of the Independent Counsel law, but that probably could have been accomplished absent the Lewinsky aspect; if William the Noble had the guts to simply come out and admit the obvious, and thereby deny the psychotics one more avenue of attack. What is striking about the anti-Bush psychosis is the really small differences at play in the budgetary debate, contrasted with the level of vitriol employed, and the degree to which irrational hatred affects the far more substantive differences on matters of war and peace. There is a rational anti-war debate to be made, and yes, some people have done so. It has been far more common, however, for the left's equivalent of the black helicopter crowd to dominate the anti-war argument, to the detriment of everyone. Krugman, a very bright guy in the grips of psychosis, displays this with his fevered yapping regarding Bush's failure to mention Bin Laden in the SOTU address. Any rational person, which is a group that Krugman is excluded from when the subject matter at hand is George W. Bush, understands that nobody really knows whether Bin Laden is alive or dead, so it wouldn't really serve any purpose to mention him. Does Krugman really believe that last year's actions in Afghanistan were a defeat for the United States? I doubt it, but what predominates Krugman's world view is his hatred for all things Bush, regardless of the topic, so it is imperative that everything Bush does, or does not do, be protrayed in the worst possible light. This mirrors those among the Republicans who did the same with Clinton, especially in regards to what quite obviously was a success in ending the butcher Milosevic's reign. As J.T. rightly notes, people not possessed of such near-psychotic hatred observe the behavior of those who are, and are driven to opposing positions.

Posted by: Will Allen on January 31, 2003 09:02 AM

JT, are you seriously suggesting the Democrats lost the Senate because the over-criticized the Administration and Bush? Had they been submitted than they have, there simply wouldn't have been any opposition (and thus democracy, for that matter.)

>>And don't give me "the level of criticism" is justified crapola.<<

I think it is fully warranted as far as the economy is concerned. Using the country's economic plight as a justification for transfering public resources to the wealthy, is simply politically unacceptable. Failing to support earnestly accounting reforms is also beyond reason. And turning free trade campain pledges into protectionism for the steel industry is a liar's business. At some point, the President has to be judged on results, not just hot air, especially if he himself keeps talking about responsability...

As for the rest of the issues, it's more debatable and more ideologically charged. But I bet that if Bush did not treat his electorate and the rest of the world as retarded teenagers, he would be more respected as well.

After all, his Daddy commended much more respect for relatively similar policies... and results. Paradoxically, Bush jr. has had until recently better ratings. Can't have it all: be a populist and command respect from the educated.

And I am not even talking about dirty stuff like Cheney awarding his Halliburton contracts for building gulag cells on Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, following 9-11. Can you imagine the harm to Clinton, and the Republican fuss on Capitol Hill, had Al Gore done half of that? How do you want any sane citizen to respect a President who appoints Pointdexter, of all, to spy on them, down to their medical and banking records?

This is a very bad movie. What amazes me in fact that so few people protest this insanity, all these lies.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 31, 2003 09:27 AM

Jean-Philippe illustrates the point nicely. When one uses language that conflates the incarceration of Taliban fighters in Cuba, including food and living conditions that Solzhenitsyn would have thought luxurious, with the treatment that purely political prisoners received in Siberia received during one the most monumental human atrocities in history, one has definitely joined the raving lunatic class, and others tend to discount everything else that was asserted. Paging Mr. Stijns....Paging Mr. Stijns....please report to the landing pad.....the black helicopter is departing.....

Posted by: Will Allen on January 31, 2003 09:41 AM

are you seriously suggesting the Democrats lost the Senate because the over-criticized the Administration and Bush?

There is a line of reasoning that they lost control because of failure to convict Clinton once the House had impeached him.

The Democratic Party could have jettisoned Clinton, installed Gore as president with the acquiescence of the GOP no less, and likely held the White House while taking Capitol Hill. Instead, the Democrats cast their lot with a politically damaged character who is still the butt of stand-up comics, surrendering the "high ground" to the Republicans.

transfering public resources to the wealthy

Allowing people to keep their own earned property is not a transfer. At least not in the United States. At least not yet.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 31, 2003 09:52 AM

JT,
Invective, doctrine, hyperbole, pathological, unhinged, crapola. I'll try and ignore these verbal bombs thrown my way and answer your question, but from the tone of your query I wonder if you'll be satisfied.

A) I agree the Republicans looked unhinged during the Clinton years but I think they knew exactly what they were doing. They were employing the tactic they've found works well for them, namely whatever it takes, in other words, no holds barred anything goes raw grab for power. Far from hurting them it's put them where they are today, controlling all three branches of government and the better part of the press.

The other side, by whatever name makes the most sense to you, (all the labels fail to work for me), probably should adopt at least a portion of their attitude. I think the failure of last November is why elected Democrats are getting louder and more pointed with their arguments today. Bush's declining poll numbers are in part an indication of the success of this new approach.

2) For me personally and I suspect many others there are the idealogical differences and then there are the three big unforgiveable sins; the 7-year $70 M Starr Inquisition; the Supreme Court's internally illogical give-up-all-their-previously-held-principles decision stopping the Florida vote count; and, supply-side economics. The latter is a proven failure, to the point that it's defenders now make the immoral argument that it's real purpose is to bankrupt the Federal Government and surreptitously force cuts in popular programs. There are a lot more lesser sins that deserve some mention (eg, playing footsie with racists) but why drag this out. Sadly one sin that may make the short list in the future is the failure to respond to the terrorist threat. I hope someday this or the following administration opens the secrets vault so we all can know the whole story.

C) To bring this back to the article and man that launched this thread, is Krugman a good example, for you, of someone criticizing Bush without the undesirable invective?

Seems to me tough talk and tough tactics are still the most effective way to prevail. I think you're going to see a lot more from the leftdemocraticprogressiveliberaletc.

Posted by: Dennis Slough on January 31, 2003 10:11 AM

In his column Krugman writes:

"For there was more to that speech than the axis of evil (a phrase, by the way, that has vanished from Mr. Bush's vocabulary, along with the name of that guy he promised to bring in dead or alive)."

This is characterized by Will Allen (a.k.a. Mr. Understatement who just jumped all over Mr. Stijns for alleged acts of hyperbole) as

"Krugman, a very bright guy in the grips of psychosis, displays this with his fevered yapping regarding Bush's failure to mention Bin Laden in the SOTU address. Any rational person, which is a group that Krugman is excluded from when the subject matter at hand is George W. Bush, understands that nobody really knows whether Bin Laden is alive or dead, so it wouldn't really serve any purpose to mention him."

Um, Will, before you go into a fevered lather keep in mind that Krugman wrote his column BEFORE the SOTU. So when you launch into a tirade about how Krugman was 'feverishly' bringing up GWB's non-mention of OBL's name at the SOTU, keep in mind that it was kind of hard for PK to do that when the speech was not given unitl after the column was published, eh?

I would be careful before you of all people go around accusing Krugman or Stijns of overstating things.

Posted by: achilles on January 31, 2003 10:35 AM

I haven't overstated anything. Why is it the least bit notable that Bush no longer mentions Bin Laden's name, unless one is possessed by some weird anti-Bush hysteria, which requires anything that Bush does, or does not do, to be fodder for an attack? Why would someone make stupid hyperbolic statements regarding gulags in Cuba , unless was possessed of a near-psychotic hatred of Bush, a particualrly unattractive and plainly irrational form of hatred which tends to discredit other assertions that might be made? Why is stupid hyperbole considered an effective form of rhetoric? Why are the employers of stupid hyperbole unable to see how their rhetoric does a disservice to what they hope to achieve?

Posted by: Will Allen on January 31, 2003 10:49 AM

"Why are the employers of stupid hyperbole unable to see how their rhetoric does a disservice to what they hope to achieve?"

I don't know Will. I figure you are more qualified to comment on that than anyone else here.

And wondering why the President has completely stopped mentioning the name of the guy who was responsible for waging war on the United States is perfectly reasonable when many are wondering if we are not focusing enough on getting him instead of chasing after other bogeymen

Posted by: achilles on January 31, 2003 10:57 AM

Thanks for the comments. I was trying to avoid getting into the nitty-gritty of the issues because it was more a matter of tone and rancor.

JP: your tone is level-headed at first but you gradually slide into exactly the sort of pathology I was talking about. And do you really mean that no "educated" people support Dubya? Look in the mirror and take a deep breath. Keep repeating: the Dubya 2001 tax cut is not as large in terms of % GDP as previous tax cuts. Then go down to the post office and relish the level of service there. Try to put yourself in a Repblican's shoes just for a few minutes.

Dennis: A) You agree with my guess that part of the rancor is payback for Monicagate. C) Krugman, whom I admired prior to his stint at the Times, has lost all credibility with me and a lot of others. Yes, his partisanship is pathological given the issues at stake. My parents (Democrats) -- who frequent the same coffee shop as he -- have made comments about his appearance that really make me question whether he needs a psychotherapist much more desperately than a defeat of GWB in '04.

About your assertion that it is working, you're using data selectively. Outside of certain liberal enclaves, few people in the US regard GWB as some sort of depraved criminal. Treatment of him as such weakens the intellectual force of your arguments. The human reaction Will A describes is a given. Contrast the humor and seeming normalcy of Ronald Reagan -- facing a dire situation -- and compare it with the anger of the 1994 Gingrich coalition and their relative success in changing the country.

Posted by: JT on January 31, 2003 11:01 AM

"My parents (Democrats) -- who frequent the same coffee shop as he -- have made comments about his appearance that really make me question whether he needs a psychotherapist much more desperately than a defeat of GWB in '04."

Now there's high level intellectual discourse and analysis!

If being slovenly dressed and disheveled looking were grounds for economists to see psychotherapists, my guess is that the American Association of Psychotherapists should start looking into scheduling their convention around the American Association of Economists!

Posted by: achilles on January 31, 2003 11:06 AM

Uh, Dennis before you convince yourself of the effectiveness of some Republicans' hysterical anti-Clinton efforts, one might wish to examine the results of the 1996 Presidential election, and the Congressional elections of 1998, in the wake of the impeachment fervor. The Republicans fared well in neither. True, Clinton harmed Gore's chances by being so stupid as to enlist the office help for fellatio while in the midst of a sexual harrassment lawsuit, and then stupidly trying to stonewall it, but even idiotic Republicans get lucky sometimes by having their nemesis reveal himself to be a moron, also. The Republicans irrational hatred of Clinton, from Gingrich's whining aout seating arrangements on Air Force One, to Dan Burton's plinking pumpkins in an effort to further the investigation of a suicide, really harmed their electoral efforts, and such irrationality will harm the Democrats as well.

Posted by: Will Allen on January 31, 2003 11:10 AM

Well golly, achilles, if I've used language which conflated any American politician or administration with Joseph Stalin, let me know. Since your rhetoric has now been reduced to the level of "I'm rubber and your glue, whatever you say bounces off me (or Jean-Philippe), and sticks to you", I'll consider the point conceded.

Now, as to Bin Laden, he is either dead, or deep in hiding. Either way, it makes no strategic sense to publicly mention his name. Are you truly unable to grasp this?

Posted by: Will Allen on January 31, 2003 11:22 AM

"Now, as to Bin Laden, he is either dead, or deep in hiding. Either way, it makes no strategic sense to publicly mention his name. Are you truly unable to grasp this?"

Well now that you have assured me that it is strategically pointless to mention Bin Laden's name since he is irrelevant, I think I can grasp it.

I guess if Krugman had been as aware of what was and was not 'strategically pointless' as you are, he would have avoided mentioning it too.



Posted by: achilles on January 31, 2003 11:36 AM

achilles: It wasn't Krugman's clothes; it was his gloominess and apparent depression that caused the comment. But it was clearly tangential to my commentary -- I just included it because I thought it was interesting -- so maybe you can ignore it and actually address the substance of the commentary.

Posted by: JT on January 31, 2003 11:48 AM

Well, actually I think Krugman is more capable of strategic thought than you apparently are, but he is so possessed of an overwhelming desire to attack Bush, that he engages in idiotic rhetoric. Since you seem to be unable to grasp the relative utility, or lack thereof, of mentioning Bin Laden, I'll spell it out. Obviously (or so I thought), if Bin laden is dead, bringing his name up serves no purpose, as, unless he is supernatural, it will not be required to kill him again, so devoting energy of any kind in pursuit of the already deceased is somewhat pointless. Now, just as obviously, if Bin laden is not dead, he is not "irrelevant". Saying that someone is not irrelevant if alive, however, is not synonymous with saying that that there is utility in mentioning him in public pronouncements. If he is dead, then mentioning him is pointless for reasons discussed above, and if he is alive but deep in hiding, raising his name builds his reputation among those elements that see defiance of the United States as a rallying cry. One is not prohibited from attempting to discover whether someone is alive, and then killing him, without mentioning his name publicly, and since it is not even known whether the person in question is alive, there is no utility in mentioning him. Again, are you truly unable to grasp this, or are you simply in grips of the anti-Bush psychosis that afflicts Krugman and others?

Posted by: Will Allen on January 31, 2003 11:58 AM

"Now, as to Bin Laden, he is either dead, or deep in hiding. Either way, it makes no strategic sense to publicly mention his name. Are you truly unable to grasp this?"

In what sense was it strategic to use his name in the first place if we couldn't deliver on the "dead or alive" promise?

Why does the Whitehouse personalize our battles with terrorist movements-- Bin Laden, Saddam, Kim Jong "I Loathe Him" Il? Apparently some at the Whitehouse, according to reports, believe creating demons is useful for domestic politics but it's playing havoc with our foreign policy. That kind of recklessness which has put us on the edge of failure needs to be exposed and corrected.

Will: Should I take you seriously? Starr threatened Lewinsky's mother with prison unless Monica divulged the most intimate details of her personal life, then he published them. Isn't there a hierarchy of evils here? People have sex and they like to keep it personal. That used to be accepted behavior.

JT: You call it Monicagate and I call it the Starr Inquisition. As long as people turn the hierarchy of wrongs upside-down I will be angry.
Bush, depraved, no, criminal, yes technically, but let's not go there. I'm not trying to put Bush in jail. However, it's less Starr & Rehnquist and more the economy, stupid. (My officemate claimed that's why he didn't like Clinton, because he called Bush I stupid. Silly notion. That phrase was a reminder to his self-deprecating self to not forget what's important.) Wrecking federal finances, lying about it, creating so much doubt about the future with deficits as far as the eye can see, constantly changing their rationale for cutting taxes, sending investors and consumers running for cover and generally screwing things up. That's the big one, though this constant mishandling of national security is getting there.

Regarding rancor, you got me thinking. Actually I was thinking this before but I'm now willing to write it. The right has been using the language of intimidation for 20 years now. Rush and Liddy, even members of congress, have suggested, almost urged, violence against Hillary, Bill, Daschle, and civil servants and it *has* worked. The left, Democrats, moved right to preserve civility. But, all it's gotten us is more intimidation. I want someone from the left to step up and make Delay look sweet. The time is right to turn up the heat and I sense it happening.

Posted by: Dennis Slough on January 31, 2003 12:21 PM

Dennis, I was simply commenting upon the supreme idiocy of enlisting the office help for sex while in the midst of a sexual harrassment suit. We'll ignore for now that Clinton strongly supported the expansion of civil discovery in such lawsuits, thereby exposing millions of his fellow citizens to the abuse via lawsuit that William the Noble found so distasteful when applied to him. As I said, the the main utility of the Clinton hysterics is that it killed off the Independent Counsel Law once and for all; they didn't help the Republicans electorally in '96 or '98. If you wish to indulge your irrational hatreds, go ahead, you'll may make yourself and your fellow fellow fanatics feel better, but at the cost of driving away people who might have some sympathy for some of your views, but find your fanatical hatred to be utterly grotesque.

Posted by: Will Allen on January 31, 2003 12:36 PM

Dennis: Interesting. You are of course right that the rhetoric on the right can go overboard, too. We'll just have to see how the strategy of "turning up the volume" works. I agree with you fully that the StarrGate (how about that moniker! -- I like it) was a travesty but you really are exaggerating the damage GWB is doing to the US economy and even the state of budget after 2005.

Posted by: JT on January 31, 2003 12:40 PM

As to Bin laden, Dennis, when an individual has set up a fiefdom in a foreign land, and from that fiefdom launched an murderous assault, there is some utility in proclaiming your intention to see him killed or captured, and his fiefdom destroyed, even if, in the chaos of warfare, one may be unable to produce his corpse. Now, if Bin laden definitively reveals himself to be alive, there would be utility in reasserting that intention. As to Hussein and Kim, the utility of publicly demonizing these actual demons cannot be evaluated as of yet. We will see. At the time, many derided Reagan for his characterization of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire". Few do so now, and dissidents within that empire welcomed it at the time. Sometimes, plainly describing your adversary's nature has great utility; it all depends on what actions one puruses in the wake of such rhetoric. Evaluating Bush's rhetoric in regards to Hussein and Kim cannot yet be fairly done. As stated above, we will see.

Posted by: Will Allen on January 31, 2003 12:50 PM

Ok, JT, StarrGate it is. My reasons for resisting that suffix in the past are trivial and unimportant. My prediction: long before 2005 the diehards will be scrambling to put their name on "Rubinomics" but it will be too late to avoid a long slow job-less recovery.

Posted by: Dennis Slough on January 31, 2003 01:05 PM

JT, I agree with the core point you are making, that politics as a whole seems more destructive than it was a decade or two ago. I am still sorting out in my mind whether what "seems" to be true "is" in fact true: in other words is it just the rise of cable tv, talk radio, blogs, etc. that make it seem more destructive than it is so.

As for Krugman, well I think that Krugman's biggest weakness is that he is relentless in pursuing those who he thinks are frauds: GWB is the latest incarnation, but in the past his bugbears have mostly been liberals: Ira Magaziner, Lester Thurow, Robert Reich etc. I certainly think he could be more effective if he only focused on really egregious lies of the Administration but he can't resist and he has never been able to resist.

My point is that Krugman now, is very much teh Krugman he always was. He just has a more public voice, has to write a lot more often. I think comparing him to the Starr era investigatins of Clinton is to grossly overestimate the power of Krugman (I am not saying that you did this, but the analogy has been made.)

Also, my recollection is that Krugman has never been a sharply dressed, happy go lucky kind of guy even in the height of teh Clinton administration but I am sure there are others on this forum who know him way better.

Posted by: achilles on January 31, 2003 01:24 PM

Will,

A couple of points

1) I was not defending Jean-Phillippe on the merits of the 'gulag' characterization: he seems to be more than capable of defending himself. I was merely pointing out that someone (namely, you) who was foaming at the mouth claiming that Krugman was 'feverishly' harping on the non-mention of bin Laden's name in the SOTU address without even bothering to check the simple fact that the column was written before the SOTU address should not be casting aspersions of hyperbole or spewing invective.

2) The fact is that GWB did not mention OBL's name in his address. Now there are two theories to explain this fact

a) I think it is because he was trying to deflect attention from the fact that he was going after Iraq even though there was unfinished business with regard to the apprehension and killing of the folks who REALLY declared war on us a year and a half ago. This was further enhanced by the fact that GWB did not hesitate to take credit for those who had been caught or killed but said nary a word about those who are around and may still pose a threat.

b) You think it is because Bin Laden is irrelevant, and strategically it makes no sense to talk about him if he's dead or if he's irrelevant for fear of making him relevant again. Its a theory, one that I disagree with (if he's that irrelevant why should we worry about saying his name? if we are so sure he's dead why is he still releasing tapes occasionally) but you are entitled to your theory.

What boggles my mind is how you have suddenly decided that your theory must be the gospel truth of the land, with no evidence other than your own assertions to back it up, and then walk around claiming that anyone espousing an alternative theory is just carrying out some kind of personal vendetta against Bush. Why people who don't believe your theory are fanatics practising 'fanatical' hatred is left unexplained, one more example of how you fail to recognize hyperbole in your own words.

Posted by: achilles on January 31, 2003 01:55 PM

Whether or not Krugman's remarks regarding the failure of Bush to talk about OBL were made in the context of of a SOTU address is irrelevant to the point that someone who thinks Bush's failure to mention OBL is some sort of nefarious plot to distract, instead of the product of fairly conventional reasoning, is someone who is either an idiot or a person engaged in an-attack-Bush-no-matter-what agenda. Krugman is not an idiot, so that leaves the latter option, and people who have an attack-no-matter-what agenda are fairly irrational, unless the subject of attack is along the lines of the truly monstrous, like the aforementioned Stalin.

You have misrepresented my views by stating that I asserted that OBL was irrelevent, since I clearly stated he was obviously relevent IF he was still alive. Let it be noted that you have produced no plausible reason why one WOULD mention the name of such a person when it is uncertain whether he is even alive. If you disagree with my analysis, please put forth a reason as to why one would do so. For what strategic benefit? Your comparison with the mentioning of people who are known to be dead or captured is simply fatuous. When one has a body, either alive or dead, there is no possible drawback to discussing what is plainly a fact. In contrast, when one speaks of people as if they are alive, when in fact they are dead, it serves no purpose other than to waste attention and energy. When one speaks of people as if they are dead, without producing definitive evidence of that fact, one runs the risk of greatly inflating the reputation of the person who's death is sought. Inflating such a reputation is problematic if the person turns out to be alive, after all, and perhaps a problem even if he isn't, since legends can be useful recruiting tools. If one doesn't know in fact if a person is dead or alive, one is better served by simply keeping one's mouth shut.

If you dispute this, please, give an example of how one might be served by speculating on the subject. If definitive evidence is obtained (by the way, the tapes released in the media have not come from the U.S. government), only then will it serve any purpose to talk about OBL again. Your failure to even acknowledge this, or to put forth a rationale under which mentioning OBL provides a net gain, is indicative that you suffer from Krugman's syndrome. In yours and Krugman's view, there can't be anything Bush says, or doesn't say, or anything Bush does, or doesn't do, that is related to a logical strategy designed to further the interests of the United States; it is all due to the fact the Bush is EVIL, EVIL, EVIL!!
This really is quite a pathetic syndrome among you Bush haters, and it manifests istself in many ways. Hell, Prof. Delong not long ago asserted in this forum that nobody in the United States had the name of Jeb prior to the Confederate general of the same name becoming famous, all out of an attempt to to prove the Bush family to be some sort of gaggle of crypto-racists. This really is getting positively weird. Truly, does it escape you entirely that it doesn't serve any strategic purpose for the President of the United States to be talking about OBL when it is not known if OBL is alive?

Posted by: Will Allen on January 31, 2003 03:04 PM

Why is it the least bit notable that Bush no longer mentions Bin Laden's name

Riiiiiiight. It's not a big deal that the guy responsible for 3000 american deaths is still at large.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on January 31, 2003 04:14 PM

Ah ha, I finally found it:

From his father George ("Poppy") Bush, the war hero with one of those curiously effeminate preppie nicknames (like "Bunny" and "Pinkie"), to Barbara ("Bar") Bush (no one dared stray farther from the source name), to brother John Ellis ("Jeb") Bush's acronym of a name, to family friends "Spider" and "Wemus" and countless others, in Bushworld everyone had to have a nickname, and if you didn't, they'd give you one.

When googling for jeb+etymology gives you lots of "derived from the civil war general" answers, though, I don't think Brad's first assumption was that objectionable.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on January 31, 2003 04:19 PM

Sure here is a scenario under which the name is mentioned:

"My fellow Americans, a year ago I stood before you and promised that we would bring the perpetrators of Sept. 11th to justice. We have arrested or killed the following [...rattles of long list of names]. We have also routed Osama Bin Laden and his organization Al Qaeda from Afghanistan and we believe that he is either dead or gone into hiding. You can rest assured that the United States will not cease the search for him. The promise I made to you last year will be upheld, and we will not give up until we know for sure that it has been upheld. [Then proceed to talk about Iraq...]."

There, that is a perfectly reasonable statement to make, it would have addressed one of the major criticisms (perhaps the only one) that Democrats have raised, which is that the Iraq war may distract from, or even bring more recruits to, Al Qaeda.

You also wrote:

"In yours and Krugman's view, there can't be anything Bush says, or doesn't say, or anything Bush does, or doesn't do, that is related to a logical strategy designed to further the interests of the United States; it is all due to the fact the Bush is EVIL, EVIL, EVIL!!"

At know point did I say Bush was evil, much less say it three times in capital letters! But thank you for another example of your tendency to indulge in vitrolic hyperbole. You can spew all the invective you want, but there is a perfectly rational explanation for why Bush avoided speaking Bin Laden's name, which is that he has shifted focus and does not want to admit it.

That may not be a rationale that you find acceptable, but you are confusing rationales that you find unacceptable with ones that defy conventional standards of logic.

Posted by: achilles on January 31, 2003 04:24 PM

Once again, you fail to address, as Jason also fails to address, the issue, which is what strategic advantage there would be in mentioning his name, as opposed to the large potential strategic disadvantage in doing so. I never disputed that Bush had the ability to mouth the words you wrote; I merely contested the notion that there is any strategic advantage in doing so, and then I also asserted that there was substantial strategic disadvantage in doing so. Since I have asked you to give a supposed strategic advantage in mentioning OBL, and you have refrained from doing so, except to answer some imaginary complaint that no substantial portion of the electorate believes in (and one that, by any examination of the evidence of Al Queda's activity over the past year, is a little silly) it can be taken that you have conceded that none exists. You fail to address the matter at hand because addressing it in an intellectually honest manner wouldn't serve your agenda of attacking George W. Bush at every possible opportunity. It really is quite bizarre. Gee, if I'm being hyperbolic and spewing invective when I attribute to Krugman the belief that Bush is Evil (go read some of the stuff that Krugman has written in the past couple of years, although I may have been a little unfair to you), what would we call it when Bush is conflated with Stalin?
Jason, Prof. Delong's original assertion was that no person was named Jeb prior to J.E.B. Stuart becoming famous. He made this assertion out of an attempt to insinuate some sort of Bush family sympathy for the Confederacy, and perhaps slavery in general. When one begins to make assertions that are on their face ridiculous to any minimally inquisitive person, out of an attempt to portray one's political opponents as racist, one is really flying off into the land of black helicopters.

Posted by: Will Allen on January 31, 2003 07:25 PM

It's interesting that the use of a word like 'gulag' would discredit all I say. First, prisoners are kept in isolation and sleep-deprived at times. These are not treatment that are considered compatible with international treaties. You can rename these war prisoners "ennemy combatants" as long as you want, it's obvious that it's just another rhetorical tric your President thinks he can get away with.

Hint: the reason your treat war prisoners decently is not because you respect them, but to retain the moral high ground, to make sure you don't mistreat innocents - the English Intelligence Serive estimates that 50% of inmates in Cuba are innocent-, and in the hope that your own soldiers will not be executed following capture -never know!-.

Second, it's funny I'd be chastized for using "hyperbols" about the All Time King of Hyperbols, i.e. Mr President W. Bush. Who is using catch words like "Axil of Evil"? "Cruisade"? Etc. etc.

I will only concede that it's better style to use the most accurate word for anything one wants to mean. So, instead of 'gulag', next time I'll use 'illegal detention camp'. I mean it's not even a prison. In a prison, even serial murderers and rapers have right besides eating...

In general, I have been observed conservatives trying to find lots of new ways to silence, smear, discredit people who are effective at showing the shortcomings of their thinking and policies, like Krugman. And once again, anything is fair game: hair, depression look in the eye, perhaps even choice of food in a restaurant. Who knows?

Why is this going on? I think in large part because conservatives are seeing their post-9-11 idolatry scaringly evaporating. They thought they had killed homo liberalus, and here he is back to life, like the Pheonix... and stronger than ever.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on January 31, 2003 07:51 PM

Will,

The only reason you end up feeling that people don't respond to you is that you keep moving the goalposts. I have reproduced your first post (and I could do the same with yoru second post) on which you attacked Krugman about his comment on Bin Laden in its entirety at the end of my post below. The word "strategy" does not appear once in either. Now you can make sanctimonious claims about how your argument was about the "strategic advantages" of not mentioning Bin Laden's name but sadly that is just the latest position of the goalpost. The fact of the matter is that you were the one who were doing the yapping without checking your facts, and when you were called on it, you then succeeded in coming up with various alternatives: "why should he mention Bin Laden's name in the SOTU", "okay, this is not about the SOTU, but why should he mention his name at all?", "okay so he could have mentioned his name, but what good would that have done", "okay, but what strategic good would that have done". What's next?

You and Bucky certainly share something in common! Okay maybe that was hyperbole on my part.

****************
"I have to agree, JT. People who are not obsessed with politics observe behavior such as this, conclude that being in the company of people who engage in such behavior is about as inviting as a root canal procedure, and reflexively adopt an opposing position. I thought the anti-Clinton psychosis had some utility, in that it drove a stake through the heart of the Independent Counsel law, but that probably could have been accomplished absent the Lewinsky aspect; if William the Noble had the guts to simply come out and admit the obvious, and thereby deny the psychotics one more avenue of attack. What is striking about the anti-Bush psychosis is the really small differences at play in the budgetary debate, contrasted with the level of vitriol employed, and the degree to which irrational hatred affects the far more substantive differences on matters of war and peace. There is a rational anti-war debate to be made, and yes, some people have done so. It has been far more common, however, for the left's equivalent of the black helicopter crowd to dominate the anti-war argument, to the detriment of everyone. Krugman, a very bright guy in the grips of psychosis, displays this with his fevered yapping regarding Bush's failure to mention Bin Laden in the SOTU address. Any rational person, which is a group that Krugman is excluded from when the subject matter at hand is George W. Bush, understands that nobody really knows whether Bin Laden is alive or dead, so it wouldn't really serve any purpose to mention him. Does Krugman really believe that last year's actions in Afghanistan were a defeat for the United States? I doubt it, but what predominates Krugman's world view is his hatred for all things Bush, regardless of the topic, so it is imperative that everything Bush does, or does not do, be protrayed in the worst possible light. This mirrors those among the Republicans who did the same with Clinton, especially in regards to what quite obviously was a success in ending the butcher Milosevic's reign. As J.T. rightly notes, people not possessed of such near-psychotic hatred observe the behavior of those who are, and are driven to opposing positions."
*************************

Posted by: achilles on January 31, 2003 08:45 PM

This really is unbelievable, achilles, in the desperate attempt to avoid addressing the matter at hand. Yes, I erred in stating that Krugman's yapping about Bush's failure to mention OBL was in the context of a SOTU address. My point was not about the SOTU address, but about Krugman grabbing any pretext to attack George Bush. To anyone without the overwhelming desire to attack George Bush, Bush's failure to mention OBL is not notable in any way, shape, or form, since there is an entirely rational, strategic, reason for the President of the United States to refrain from mentioning him at this time. Krugman, of course, is not interested in this, because it doesn't serve his agenda. That I erred in stating Krugman made his remarks in the context of a SOTU address is irrelevant to the point I was making, which was that criticizing Bush for failure to mention OBL is silly and stupid, unless one begins with the pretext that Bush is to be attacked at every opportunity. What possible relevance is there that I made an error in regards to the SOTU context, since the SOTU was not in any way central to my criticism of Krugman? I can only take it that your continual attention to a point that is entirely trivial to my criticism of Krugman is yet another concession. Read very, very, slowly. My criticism of Krugman is that he engages in irrational attacks on Bush. Criticizing Bush for failure, either in the past, or predicted in the future, to mention OBL is irrational, since there is a very good reason why any President of the United States might refrain from doing so, given the present circumstances. Thus, Krugman is irrational in his treatment of Bush. That I erred in my remarks regarding the SOTU address has absolutely nothing to do with my criticism of Krugman's behavior. If I had changed my original statement from "Krugman, a very bright guy in the grips of psychosis, displays this with his fevered yapping regarding Bush's failure to mention Bin Laden in the SOTU address", to "Krugman, a very bright guy in the grips of psychosis, displays this with his fevered yapping regarding Bush's failure to mention Bin Laden", my criticism of Krugman has not changed in the least. Are you truly unable to grasp this, or are you simply once again attempting to avoid the issue at hand? Why is it so important for you to defend Krugman's silly obsession, to the point that you engage in the most ridiculous efforts to avoid my actual contention?

Posted by: Will Allen on February 1, 2003 08:10 AM

Thanks for conceding the point Jean-Philippe, if only in a backhanded way. If you wish to protest the treatment of prisoners a Guantanamo, go right ahead. I'm sure an interesting discussion might be had, with lots of comparisons of how similar prisoners have been treated by differing governments. When you use language that conflates the behavior of George W. Bush with the behavior of the greatest single mass murderer in human history, however, you do your assertions a disservice, since such silliness tends to harm your credibility. The person who made famous the term "gulag", after having lived in Stalin's death camps, would likely find your rhetoric either contemptible or silly. It is entirely comparable to those occasions when various nitwits employ the term "holocaust" in a particularly stupid fashion.

As to your remarks about conservatives, I am not one, so perhaps you directed them at someone else. I'm not really a supporter of George W. Bush, either; I simply would prefer that he be criticized in a substantive manner, instead of the nonsensical way it is often done.

Posted by: Will Allen on February 1, 2003 08:31 AM

Will,

Given what's happened today I really don't feel like continuing this conversation and I am sure you feel the same way. I gave you my reasons for why I thought GWB was avoiding mentioning OBL's name, you don't seem to think these are 'strategic' reasons so we will just leave it at that and let this trivial issue lie in peace.

Posted by: achilles on February 1, 2003 03:11 PM

Ordinary Americans think Bin Laden and Saddam are the same man...

Suddenly Baghdad was in the frame, and al-Qa'ida receded into the background. For several months the name of Bin Laden has barely passed President Bush's lips; although al-Qa'ida was name-checked in the latest State of the Union speech a few days ago, its leader was not mentioned. Instead Washington has acted as though the link between Iraq and terrorism were self-evident.

(...)

Magnus Ransthorp, a terrorism expert at St Andrews University, said justifying the war on Iraq by accusing President Saddam of both concealing weapons of mass destruction and supporting Bin Laden "is like mixing apples and oranges". But the strategy appears to have been very successful domestically. As one observer commented, "ordinary Americans ... repeat these claims, and sometimes seem to think Bin Laden and Saddam are the same man".

Britain weighed in last week, when the BBC was shown intelligence data indicating that al-Qa'ida had built a small "dirty bomb" in western Afghanistan while the Taliban regime was still in power. But there was no evidence of any Iraqi involvement, and the report served as a reminder that while the world's attention is focused on Iraq, the war against terrorism in Afghanistan is far from over.(...)

Posted by: Old European on February 3, 2003 05:43 PM
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