25 03 2010

As I was walking to class earlier this week, enjoying the fine spring weather, I stopped and watched some squirrels.  As anyone who has ever been to Ann Arbor knows, the squirrels are freakishly large; they probably have about as much meat on them as a Cornish hen, and I’m sure it’s quite tender.

A photo of a squirrel not yet touched by the Rodentia obesity epidemic

I as I was marveling at the girth and sloth of the campus squirrels, reflecting on how truly blessed we all are to live in a nation where food is so abundant that even the vermin are overweight, I realized that those squirrels reminded me of someone.

Those beady eyes…those chubby cheeks…the shameless begging for food and recognition—so familiar.  But who could I be thinking of?

After following a link to a NYT column, it suddenly became clear.

Too easy? Maybe.

Yep, it was good old Paul Krugman I was thinking of.  Ripping on Krugman is always fun.  I know, I know, he’s a Nobel Laureate, and I’m an undergrad economics student.  Far from me to criticize his economic prowess; even if I disagree with him on some fundamentals, he did win his Nobel for defending free trade.  In fact, most of what I learned from that wretched man’s textbook (cost: about $140) comes out pretty strongly in favor of capitalism.

All that just makes his progressive hackery, which seems to have a nasty habit of springing forth from his pen every time he sets it to paper, even more jarring.

The column that brought this rather calm and collected tirade on was this one.  In it, Krugman tries to pin opposition to  Obamacare on…wait for it…fear-mongering racists.  Of course!  It has nothing to do with the fact that it accelerates the arrival of a fiscal apocalypse that my generation is going to have to deal with—naturally, it’s just angry white folk angry about providing “free” health care to minorities.

Though his logic is obviously unimpeachable (remember: he’s the one with the Nobel Prize), he felt the need to back up his slander with a quote by Newt Gingrich.  Or rather, a quote from the Washington Post that quoted Gingrich:

And on the other side, here’s what Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House — a man celebrated by many in his party as an intellectual leader — had to say: If Democrats pass health reform, “They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation.

Except that Gingrich was referring to Johnson’s Great Society, not civil rights legislation.  I think we can agree that the Great Society failed to do what it set out to do, and at great expense—both monetary and social—to present and future generations (I don’t want to get into that here, but you can read an excellent critique by Murray Rothbard here).  And I think we can agree that, for all his faults, Gingrich is too wily a politician to ever criticize civil rights legislation.

Yet Krugman didn’t even bother checking the quote for accuracy; why would he?  It advanced his narrative.  True, the Editorial Staff at the NYT added a correction to the column, but Krugman has not yet apologized for his mischaracterization of Gingrich’s words.

Krugman may be an easy target to attack.  He’s famous, he’s got a soapbox to shout from, and he looks like a squirrel.  Unfortunately, he remains respected, and it’s sad that he is still a dominant mind in the field that I may one day enter.

For more Krugman-bashing (of a more academic nature), check out Krugman-in-Wonderland.  Especially cutting is Anderson’s criticism of Krugman’s proposal to impose 25% tariffs surcharges on Chinese-made goods (trade war, anyone?)—an ironic argument coming from a man who, as previously stated, won a Nobel for his work defending international trade.




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