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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Friday, June 07, 2002

Krugman Exonerates Bush

In his latest effort, Paul Krugman of the NY Times takes on Osama Bin Laden, global warming, and the King of Rock and Roll. Coming amidst a barrage of stories about intelligence failures, Krugman delivers the good news that :

“I also believe that the administration played no role in the death of Elvis Presley…”

Glad we cleared that up. Although if Paul is solving these puzzles chronologically, there is still a lot of brush to clear. On the other hand, if he is working alphabetically, a resolution to Enron is imminent. And yes, it all makes more sense when he says it. But not much more. With respect to energy policy and terrorism,

“The real questions in both cases are whether the administration failed to act against real threats because it was preoccupied with a preconceived agenda; why officials who manifestly got it wrong have not been held accountable; and whether, because nobody has been held accountable, the administration is continuing to make the same mistakes.”

Hey, we’re on the same page! Paul and I, pointing in the same direction and working as one. Heady times, here at the humble MinuteMan. But wait:

“I know that I'm about to get a barrage of mail saying that energy policy and terrorism are not comparable; but bear with me for a minute”

Man, he DOES read that stuff I send him! Every damn Tuesday, every damn Friday, Dear Professor Krugman, I know you are brilliant but today you have left me so confused…. And he's reading it! I'm getting through! Next he'll have a blog. But maybe he'll sell out, like Mickey. Or Andrew won't link to him. I mean, why would he? Maybe not a blog...

“But just as John Ashcroft, who brushed aside appeals to make terrorism a priority, remains in charge of our effort against terrorism, Mr. Cheney — who ridiculed conservation and price controls, which in the end were what saved California — remains in charge of energy policy. And that scares me more than terrorism.”

Oh no! Concentrate, Paul (I can call you Paul?) We had it, you and me! Restore the mind link! Energy policy scares you more than terrorism? You must be wearing a flak jacket under one of these.

“Earlier this week the Environmental Protection Agency released a report confirming what the vast majority of climatologists, and every other advanced-country government, had already concluded: human activity is causing global warming, and the consequences will be nasty. But the E.P.A. did not propose any preventive action. Instead, it talked only about adapting to the changes.”

Here we go. The suspense had been getting to me - Enron again? But its global warming. Fortunately, a talented economist like my buddy Paulie will calmly assess the present value discounted costs and benefits of different preventive schemes, so that we can sensibly balance what are giving up in terms of lost jobs and output against the expected benefits of a cooler Earth in the hazy (but not smoggy) future. Go, my man:

“Old hands recalled the days of James Watt, the interior secretary back in the 1980's. “When scientists discovered that industrial chemicals were depleting the earth's protective ozone layer, Mr. Watt suggested that people wear hats, sunscreen and dark glasses. “

We’re drifting, P Krug. Instead of going to work like this, are you saying we should show up at the office the way you do?

“No such happy outcome seems likely on global warming. After a curious pause, George W. Bush rejected his own administration's analysis. "I read the report put out by the bureaucracy," he sneered.

Clearly, this was a replay of what happened early last year, when the E.P.A.'s Christie Whitman assured the public that Mr. Bush would honor his pledge to control carbon dioxide emissions — only to be betrayed when the coal and oil industries weighed in on the subject. So the administration learned nothing from the California crisis; it still takes its advice from the energy companies that financed its campaign (and made many administration officials, including Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, rich). “

Rich is bad, I remember you telling me that. Rich is bad. And Marc Rich is really bad. No, sorry, flashback. I have to let go…

“And it's one thing to reward your friends with subsidies and lax regulation. It's something quite different to let them dictate policy on climate change.

Many people believe that the Bush administration had a special window of opportunity on global warming policy. Politically, it could have been a Nixon-goes-to-China moment: Mr. Bush could have passed legislation that would have been totally out of reach for a Democrat.”

Paul, you’re kind of doing politics here, not economics. Instead of Nixon to China, are you sure this wouldn’t be Bush (Sr.) to Increase Taxes? Read My Lips, no new Kyoto? Sorry to interrupt. But speaking of passing legislation, do you smell something?

“But because the administration continues to listen only to the usual suspects, that window of opportunity is closing fast. And bear this in mind: Whatever he imagines, Osama bin Laden can't destroy Western civilization. Carbon dioxide can. “

Ominous. Western Civ over. So what do we do? Costs, benefits, discount rates, lost growth, cost of adjusting to warmer climate, projected cooling, emerging technologies, emissions trading, carbon sinks: Go, Big Fella, Go!

Big Fella?

Sorry, Elvis has left the building. And Paul has finished his column. And lets give it up for a fine economist, researcher, and all around great guy!

OK, I see you holding up your matches, and cigarette lighters, and red hammers. There will be an encore. The always reliable, always employable, and I don’t care what the Warbloggers say, always enjoyable Ms. Galt graced us just a few days ago with a piece on global warming, waaay down under "Ask the MBA".

The mighty Mickey has been dissecting the Times coverage at his site, with a big piece on June 4, and a follow up on June 5. The Kaus-meister also refers to a fascinating piece by Gregg Easterbrook of TNR, a must-read for policy alternatives. Sneak preview - the problem isn’t carbon dioxide, its methane. And I think Paul just passed some.

UPDATE: Jeff Hauser, an occassional reader that I drag here in chains, comments on this piece, but that's not my point. Jeff objects to his out of context characterization on the Lefty Blog Roundup at The Bear Truth. Here's my suggestion to readers - If you are totally stuck for material, check out Jeff's site; he will have ten interesting opinions, at least one of which you will want to pound on like a nail. Grab a hammer and start pounding, by e-mail or blog. But bring your "A" arguments - this guy is wildly well informed, smart, articulate, and can sniff out your BS. He also deals gracefully and courteously with right wing crazies, as long as you don't start drooling or foaming. (I mean, I try not to, but sometimes....). Also, and for what I predict will be a limited time at this point in his career arc, he is responsive. So unite - we need to keep this guy distracted with his blog, and away from a public policy position or elective office. Do the Republic a favor.


Greetings to all you Janiacs. Hugh Downs once said, trying to quote Andy Warhol, that "everyone will be famous in fifteen minutes." And you will be! Because I love Jane, and I love all her friends, and I will link to you all! And if a link from a sub-atomic particle (look below microbes) can get it done, it will be done.


Props to Hoystory, who has been ripping up Krugman since Hector was a pup, and does so again today.

Also swing by The Gammaholic, a regular on the Krugman Watch, who today provides a good piece on global warming.

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