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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Krugman Ascendant

My blood pressure is rising, and I've only read three words of Krugman's latest, The Rove Doctrine. Rove is politics, Professor, your degree is in Economics, Economics, these people are going to eat you up. Remember your debacle with "The Angry People"?. Oh, sure, hide it in the Premium Archives, but it was April 23 - we remember.

But it's a head fake! Karl Rove is the driving force behind the White House protectionism, and the column is about free trade, which is good, and the Bush policies, which are bad. I'm still lacing up the gloves, and Krugman's knocked me down. Because he's right - this administration stinks on trade.

Oh, I can thrash around a bit. Can I build a comeback on this:

"One of Bill Clinton's underappreciated virtues was his considerable idealism when it came to economic policy..."

Maybe we could talk about Clinton's underappreciated vices. But that seems so 1999. How about this?

"If Bill Clinton had given the steel industry the tariffs it wanted, Al Gore would probably be living in the White House. But administration officials actually worried about the consequences — for the nation, and for the world economy — of giving in to special interests.

Oh, man, Al Gore? If Big Al had been smart enough to just bring one personality to the debates and leave the other two at home, George Bush would be Commissioner of Baseball and he would settle this contract problem, and there wouldn't be a strike, and the Yankees could trounce the Red Sox, and.... hey, Go Big Al, Go!

But I'm gasping for air, here, give me some oxygen, Paul.

"And if the administration won't take a stand on principle, who will? I was particularly struck by a story in the newspaper The Hill titled "Unions taking fresh look at G.O.P." It quoted the U.A.W. spokesman saying his union was "looking beyond party labels" to where politicians stand "on certain issues." In other words, his union will go with whoever caters to its special interests."

"Unions Pursue Own Interest, Lack Principles". There's a headline - for Paul, maybe, but not for me. Running out of time, I am. Draw on the Force.

"To some extent we've been here before. Paula Stern, the former head of the International Trade Commission, matter-of-factly describes Ronald Reagan as "the most protectionist president since Herbert Hoover," and says that he "legitimized efforts by powerful industries to use political muscle — not necessarily economic merit or legal criteria" to get what they wanted. So in a way Mr. Bush is following in Mr. Reagan's footsteps. "

A little swipe at Reagan, geez, Paul, let it go. I mean, I passed on the Clinton stuff, and I almost said something nice about Al. But I suppose that a guy who just had this revelation about unions isn't ready for the further shock that every President plays politics with trade.

But there is no way this is enough to get me back into this. How is Krugman's Big Finish?

"But it seems to me that it's worse this time — that we are witnessing a race to the bottom in interest-driven politics, taking us to depths not seen since before the New Deal. And if that Esquire story is to be believed, it's about to get even worse. Smoot-Hawley, anyone? "

And that's it. So what do I do, defend Smoot-Hawley? Look, it would have been nice if Paul spent a little less time bashing Republicans and a little more time making the case for free trade, since he is an economist and it is his fellow Democrats who have issues with trade. He wouldn't exactly be preaching to the choir, I mean, it's the Democrats that won't give Bush fast track authority. But take some responsibility here, Bush ought to knock some heads, what is the point of a 70% approval rating anyway, Bush can't even scare these Red State Senators, how the hell is he going to scare Saddam or Osama? Oh, its over, over, over, something bad happened and Bush is responsible, and Krugman is right. But don't anyone get used to it.

UPDATE: Some people are not getting used to it. Jane Galt fights Krugman tooth and nail. Hoystory takes time out from packing to pummel the phony intro. He's right: even the DNC is worried about Krugman's credibility.

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