Thursday, February 25, 2010

Getting it right

Reading a New Yorker article on New York Times columnist Paul Krugman today, I was reminded that it was around the year 1999 - after many years as a newspaper reporter, a few less spectacular years as a city editor, and maybe a half-dozen years as an editorial page editor - that I first got to know Krugman's work. (Helena's Independent Record was the only newspaper in Montana that bought the Times wire, so we were the only paper in the state to carry Krugman.)

Paul Krugman had been hired by the Times to write about business and economics - the subject for which he recently won the Nobel Prize - but during the presidential election of 2000, the columnist began to realize something rather important: Economically speaking, the Bush team was lying through its teeth. And Krugman's columns mirrored his conviction that this particular would-be emperor was wearing no clothes, and that somebody had to get angry about it.

Krugman was appalled that Bush was using the "war on terror" to hide his reckless spending, trying to undermine Social Security, pushing economically and environmentally ruinous energy policy, and pulling ever wider the gap between rich and poor with his tax cuts.

In my experience, no national columnist in recent years has been more often right, and less often wrong.

That's why it was so unsettling for many Obama-besotted Americans (like me, rather out of my goard after eight years of Bush) when, early in the 2008 primaries, Krugman found the nation's first realistic black presidential candidate way too conservative. (What, no universal health-care coverage?) (What, Democrats can come together with Republicans?) Krugman first liked John Edwards (of course long before it became known that Edward's youthful good looks hid something rather less pleasant), and then he got behind Hillary Clinton, who may have been further toward the center, but at least was tough as nails. After the primaries, Krugman supported Obama, of course. (The alternative was McCain-(giggle)-Palin.)

By early 2010, Krugman's early worries about Obama are starting to worry lots of other Democrats as well. Was Krugman right again?

Don't know. But the New Yorker article mentioned that Krugman and his wife left the stock market a decade ago and never came back.


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