Paul Krugman Favored Raising Retirement Age Until GOP Proposed It
In the ongoing debate over entitlement reform, one relatively modest proposal for saving a bit of money is to raise the retirement age by two or three years. But in a Tuesday morning blog post, Krugman dismissed the proposal, saying it "shows how disconnected [its proponents] are from the way the other half lives (and dies)." It's only the plutocrats, "the judges - and the politicians, who are similar - who think it's a great idea to raise the retirement age."
As quoted by Michelle Malkin, who dug up Krugman's 1996 review of a pair of books, one by Peter G. Peterson and the other by Charles R. Morris, Krugman wrote:
Both Mr. Morris and Mr. Peterson offer plans to avert the crisis ahead. The details differ, and Mr. Peterson's proposal is more completely fleshed out, but the general thrust is clear: slow the growth in benefit levels, gradually raise the retirement age, impose limits on expensive terminal medical care that prolongs life for only weeks or days and - last but not least - raise taxes moderately now, rather than massively later. We need not dwell on their sensible proposals, however, because there is not the slightest prospect that they will be put into effect - or indeed that we will do anything serious about the looming crisis until it is almost upon us.
As Malkin noted, his discussion of the looming fiscal crisis brought on by entitlement spending sounds like "Paul Ryan circa 2011."
But this is all true to form for Krugman. He routinely changes his position on major economic issues in order to maximize the rhetorical benefit for his political allies. In fact, one study found that Krugman often - more than any other economist measured - changed his position on deficit spending depending on the president's political party.
So as one might expect, it's not too difficult to find examples of Krugman contradicting himself for purely political reasons.
"What Democrats believe," Krugman wrote last March, "is what textbook economics says."
But that's not how Republicans see it. Here's what Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, had to say when defending Mr. Bunning's position (although not joining his blockade): unemployment relief "doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work."
That position, Krugman claimed, is contrary to textbook economics. And he would know - he has written economics textbooks. In fact, scanning through "Macroeconomics" by Paul Krugman, one might find this passage:
Public policy designed to help workers who lose their jobs can lead to structural unemployment as an unintended side effect... In other countries, particularly in Europe, benefits are more generous and last longer. The drawback to this generosity is that it reduces a worker's incentive to quickly find a new job. Generous unemployment benefits in some European countries are widely believed to be one of the main causes of "Eurosclerosis," the persistent high unemployment that affects a number of European countries.
So do unemployment benefits keep people from finding work, or not? Well, that depends: does extending those benefits comport with Krugman's political agenda?
The hypocrisy extends to the wisdom of deficit spending generally. Here's Krugman in 2004:
Well, basically we have a world-class budget deficit not just as in absolute terms of course - it's the biggest budget deficit in the history of the world - but it's a budget deficit that as a share of GDP is right up there. It's comparable to the worst we've ever seen in this country. It's biggest than Argentina in 2001. Which is not cyclical, there's only a little bit that's because the economy is depressed. Mostly it's because, fundamentally, the Government isn't taking in enough money to pay for the programs and we have no strategy of dealing with it. So, if you take a look, the only thing that sustains the US right now is the fact that people say, 'Well America's a mature, advanced country and mature, advanced countries always, you know, get their financial house in order,' but there's not a hint that that's on the political horizon, so I think we're looking for a collapse of confidence some time in the not-too-distant future.
Got that? The federal budget deficit, at the time about 3.5 percent of GDP, represented a potential catastrophe. In 2010, the deficit was about 9 percent of GDP. Here's Krugman last summer:
Many economists, myself included, regard this turn to austerity as a huge mistake. It raises memories of 1937, when F.D.R.'s premature attempt to balance the budget helped plunge a recovering economy back into severe recession. And here in Germany, a few scholars see parallels to the policies of Heinrich Brüning, the chancellor from 1930 to 1932, whose devotion to financial orthodoxy ended up sealing the doom of the Weimar Republic. But despite these warnings, the deficit hawks are prevailing in most places - and nowhere more than here, where the government has pledged 80 billion euros, almost $100 billion, in tax increases and spending cuts even though the economy continues to operate far below capacity.
Given all of this, we have to ask: at what point do we start treating Krugman as the partisan operative he so clearly is? And is the Times really comfortable giving the megaphone it does to someone with such disregard for journalistic and academic integrity?
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