Krugman: Not a Democrat, Still Sucks

Mr. Glenn Greenwald was kind enough to respond to one of my Tweets yesterday in which, as befits the medium, I made the somewhat simplistic comment that Paul Krugman is a Democrat hack. Glenn disagreed with my characterization, and even pointed out that Krugman (or his editors) referred to the president as “Barack Herbert Hoover Obama.”

Glenn Greenwald is probably a lot smarter than I am, so I’ve tried to take his argument seriously. Maybe Paul Krugman isn’t a committed, partisan Democrat. Maybe he’s an honest academic, or just a passionate advocate of beliefs which traditionally align him with the Democrats. I’ve combed the archives to find the truth.

Here’s Krugman from Fenruary 8th, 2010:

It should be a simple message (and it should have been the central message in Massachusetts): a vote for a Republican, no matter what you think of him as a person, is a vote for paralysis. But by now, we know how the Obama administration deals with those who would destroy it: it goes straight for the capillaries.

Well, America is not yet lost. But the Senate is working on it.

Here we get a two-fer: Republicans suck, and Obama just doesn’t hit them hard enough. Points in the “Democrat” column, sure, but I’m becoming convinced that’s a simplistic reading. Krugman is not so much a Democrat as he is insane, a creature summoned to life from Aaron Sorkin’s detoxing fever dreams.

First, note his use of the word “destroy” to characterize Obama’s political opponents. To me, it seems like an odd word choice. But my mind is not steeped in the heroic combat narrative of Paul Krugman’s imagination. When I watch the news, I largely see self-interested politicians. Human beings with some small ideological core, right or left, who mostly just want to hang on to power and get on TV and what have you. But Paul Krugman sees a holy war; John Boehner doesn’t want to vote down Democratic bills. He wants to destroy the administration! (Question for Mr. Krugman: When you pull the lever for Mr. Obama this Fall, will you be voting to “destroy” his opponent?)

And of course, the closer: “America is not lost…” Verily, we teeter on the rain-slick precipice of darkness, Mr. Krugman. Not only is America dangerously close to being “lost,” it’s that dastardly US Senate that’s doing it. We’re standing on the edge of a canyon, and Orrin Hatch is creeping up behind, ready to hurl us to our national doom. Here we see the eschatological vein that runs through much of Krugman’s writing. Not only a crusade, but quite possibly the last crusade.

Yes, it’s a scary world out there. Here’s Krugman from a few weeks ago:

Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, isn’t a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that’s too bad, because Mr. Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the G.O.P. — namely, that it is becoming the “anti-science party.” This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us.

There’s a lot to nitpick here. First, how is that “unsayable?” I feel like it’s been said a lot recently. In fact, wasn’t it just said by… Paul Krugman? And I’m supposed to be terrified that a moderate who worked for the current Democratic president isn’t a serious candidate in the GOP primary? Next you’ll tell me Joe Lieberman has no chance of victory if he primaries Obama. Terrifying! Not just important, enormously important!

But what really got people’s attention was what he said about climate change: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

That’s a remarkable statement — or maybe the right adjective is “vile.”

He’s quoting Rick Perry here. Perry, as far as I can tell, is right. Scientists have fudged numbers and faked surveys. Al Gore is surely not alone in lining his pockets from this particular moral crusade. Does that mean there is no global warming? Of course not. I would call Perry’s position “rational skepticism,” but I suppose “vile” works, too. When proving your science chops, it always helps to call the other guy’s thoughts “vile.” Remember: It’s not about refuting what your opponents say, it’s about making yourself and your readers get that warm, morally-superior feeling.

Because why should anyone imagine that you need more than gut feelings to analyze things like financial crises and recessions?

Good question! You’re probably making seven-figures writing op-eds based on little else, so it’s working for somebody.

Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.

Terrifying! There’s so much to be afraid of in Krugman-world. Also, anti-knowledge: Heh. I saw a reporter try to explain the concept of a heliocentric universe to Rick Perry once, and he just plugged his ears and started yelling. On the plus side, though, the parties are gonna be awesome when our new caveman overlords take over. Virgin sacrifice, chants to the sun god… gonna be like old times.

Alternatively, how’s this for terrifying: Four more years of failed trillion-dollar stimulus packages and bailouts that, no matter which party hands them out, wind up in the hands of the politically connected while the economy keeps circling the drain? Nah, you’re right; Southern accent is way scarier.

A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?

That’s the real money graf from Krugman’s 9/11 piece, the elevation of “professional pundits.” In his mind, Paul Krugman is a hero, fighting for us every day out there on the front lines. His enemies are legion. They are “vile,” “terrifying,” “fake heroes” bent on destruction.

So, I’m convinced. Krugman doesn’t write to support the Democratic party. He writes to support his banal, childish “West Wing” fantasy of good politicians in white hats, and their steadfast, loyal sidekicks in the press, shooting it out with those regressive troglodytes from flyover country.

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Budget crisis or sinister Koch plot? Whither Karl Rove?

Is this a historic moment? Or, an historic moment, if you prefer?

I don’t know, but I hope so. A cursory reading of our financial condition would suggest that we’re quickly running out of money, and unless we stop spending like drunken sailors, we’re going to be up against it something fierce. But we’ve shown an amazing capacity for defying reality in this country. Our leading intellectuals in the “respectable” left and center-left media are telling us everything’s gonna be OK. Don’t worry about what that scary Republican man is saying! It’s not really time to cut spending. America doesn’t really have a financial crisis. Look at those mean, arrogrant budget-cutters! Why, they don’t care about the budget at all! Maybe this is all a figment of our imaginations, a collective hallucination brought on by the Koch brothers! Perhaps they’ve some manner of mind-control drug in the water supply. That would be just like those crafty right-wingers, long known for their subtlety and media-savvy.

As events turn unruly in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana, can states like California and New York be far behind? How long can we defer any decisions?

Where does the rubber meet the road? When do competing narratives get smashed by the narrative of reality? As in, the reality that We Are Out of Money? I don’t know. But one hopes it happens soon, else someone in Chengdu will be watching the Chinese version of “Operation Repo,” and laughing as a 400-pound man seizes the keys to Air Force One from a vigorously protesting, but ultimately ineffectual*, President Obama.

*Perhaps an apt description for his entire presidency.
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While we’re at it…

Can the current kerfuffle in Wisconsin be a “teachable moment” for us? Could we please, please rethink our views on education?

Increasingly, we are living in a country which values form over function. For proof of this, you need look no further than 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. There dwells a man who has, quite literally, never achieved anything of substance in life. If you can name a contribution Barack Obama made to society before getting elected to public office, I’d like to know about it. But the man is a gifted speaker, and he knows what people want to hear. And he rode that all the way to the highest office in the land, all sense, common or otherwise, be damned. The people in this country are so hungry to believe a fantastic narrative that they’ll suspend disbelief and swallow Obamism hook, line, and sinker. If you stop and think about it, it’s pretty stunning. The man literally is not there. We elected an empty suit, a hall of mirrors, a smoke show, pick the metaphor of your choice. And as the economy tumbles around us, many of us are still willing to close our eyes to what’s really going on and swallow whatever version of reality our dear leader is offering this week. Yes, the stimulus worked! A trillion jobs created (or saved)! We have always stood with the people of Egypt! This new budget will shrink the deficit!

But not only are we desperate to escape reality, we’re also living in a hyper-litigious, stultified, bureaucratic culture. We elevate, in the words of Mr. Glenn Reynolds, the “credentialed, not educated.” Let’s look again at Mr. President. What did he do, exactly, before he became president? Did he manufacture things? Write software? Build robots? Cure disease? No. Essentially, he talked. He was a lawyer for various community groups.  He made a solid living on his ability to use words to shape others’ perceptions. He did nothing. But still we exalt him. He was president of the Harvard Law Review! Well, hot damn. And yet, we hold him, and all our leaders, to a pitifully low standard. We don’t ask that they make any changes, or tackle the deficit, or take a long hard look at the “war on terror.” We’re happy if they mouth platitudes, and to the most platitudinous go the most plaudits, and the most power.

So it goes in 21st century America. You don’t have to do anything; you just have to make a convincing show of it. You don’t have to learn anything; you just have to earn that piece of paper. Can you write, can you argue? Can you create, can you build? Can you think, or lead? It matters not. Go through the motions. We just want a good story to lull us to sleep at night. And when it all comes crashing down on our heads we’ll point to our leaders’ glorious lists of credentials and pretend we didn’t know the emperor had no clothes.

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Nir Rosen, and Other Cretins

The latest incident of a member of the humane and progressive left accidentally letting slip a little honesty this week is as good a time as any to reflect on just who these people really are. In the words of Jay Severin, it’s not that Nir Rosen is anti-war, it’s just that he’s rooting for the other side.

American progressives like to hold themselves up as the inheritors of a grand tradition of fighting to expand people’s rights and freedoms. While this makes for fine rhetoric and campaign fliers, it’s a pretty thin disguise.

A guy like Nir Rosen probably thinks he believes in women’s rights. Likewise the people he associates with, his friends, his family, his colleagues. And yet he casually makes a joke about a woman getting beaten by a mob (oh, that glorious democratic revolution in Egypt!), and feels justified in so joking because he assumes this woman holds politics which differ from his own.

It’s like the old adage, “freedom of speech for me, but not for thee.” Except intellectually bankrupt hacks like Rosen have extended the concept to simple human dignity.

For more in this vein, read Brian Doherty’s October column in Reason.

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The Future’s so Bright

The estimable Iowahawk linked today on Twitter to a story in McClatchy dealing with a study that found most college students don’t learn “higher order” thinking skills. This sort of announcement is not news to anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes on the campus of your average school in the past ten years. And I would contend that this drift away from academic standards begins much earlier than college.

I have had the experience in the past few years to be in a freshman-level English course at a public university. Now, I haven’t earned myself any advanced degrees, or any degrees whatsoever, but the level of ignorance in that classroom was gob-smacking. The course in question was a compulsory, introductory level writing course, and as such I imagine it represented a fair cross-section of the university. Not an Ivy by any stretch, but certainly a rung or two above community college (in perceived importance if not in actual quality of instruction). Students could not write. They could not analyze. They could not understand even the simplest metaphor. It was the sort of experience that reduces one’s faith in humanity, if indeed one has any left.

Our intellectual currency is devalued at all levels. We’ve lost the equivalent of the gold standard – “education” now is not measured in real-world results but by whatever consensus the academic community can settle on. Increasingly, the drivers of American thought are, as Mr. Reynolds would say, “credentialed, not educated.”

What does this mean for us going forward? Who can say? What worries me is that our competitors today are not nearly so burdened by morals and hindered by ideals as we are. The Chinese are concerned with real, measurable wealth. The worldwide Jihad movement, such as it is, also measures its gains in very real currency. They may soon add several Arab governments to their trophy case.

I am not advocating that we abandon our ideals or morals. But we must start making concessions to reality if we mean to survive the next 100 years. The national deficit may be so large a number as to seem fantastic, but that bill will soon come due. When it does, I fear our contentment, bred from years of unquestioned American superiority, and the windy rhetoric of our leaders will prove a very thin refuge indeed.

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Life in the Cenozoic Era

This week, six people were shot and killed in Tucson. That’s roughly .013% of the people murdered in the city of Chicago last year. Compared to the death tolls in Iraq or Afghanistan, it’s a drop in the ocean. There’s no doubt that every death is a tragedy to those close to the deceased. The friends and family of Christina Green are no doubt devastated by this week’s events.  As someone who has never experienced a loss of this magnitude, it would feel ghoulish for me to even pretend to have some kind of empathy for them. The loss of a child is surely the worst thing that can happen to a parent, and a pain that I cannot even fathom.

And yet, millions of Americans today are claiming to stand with the victims of Tuscon, and many of them are incredibly naive-but-well-intentioned students at the University of Arizona. It’s the sort of thing that doesn’t withstand any sort of close scrutiny, but in today’s media-saturated political environment there’s no such thing as scrutiny. We watch, we feel, we react. God forbid we think or consider. And all the while our nation’s intellegentsia, as enshrined in academia and other footholds of the professional Left, excoriate any who dare feel the wrong things, speak the wrong words, or have in any way the wrong reaction.

Not being a mental health professional, I can’t claim to tell you why. Perhaps it has something to do with modern media. Everything everywhere is beamed into our living rooms; we feel like we’re a part of it. We’re witnesses to every triumph and tragedy, to every last banality of anyone even remotely famous. We’ve seen Pamela Anderson’s wedding video and we watched 3,000 people die on television on September 11th, 2001. It feels, perhaps, more personal than it is. And when terrible things happen, things we can’t understand or can’t prevent or are powerless to react to, we look to the authorities. We look to Washington.

And as such we have the spectacle we see tonight, at this farce of a memorial in Arizona. The very real, very terrible, very personal tragedy of a dozen or so families has become some sort of cheap emotional high for the television-viewing public. It’s given millions of misguided citizens and hysterical leftists something to hang on to, a raison d’etre. We simply cannot accept that this world we live in is highly imperfect; we can’t accept that we are imperfect. We need to Do Something About It. But we can’t; we live in Miami, in Boston, in Kenosha. So we look to those who can: our elected leaders.

So we have a situation in which our would-be Messiah, the in-over-his-head Barack Obama, stands on television doing his damndest to project an air of authority, clumsily clapping into the microphone, blissfully unaware of the day to day reality of any American, comfortably ensconced in his own rarified stratum. Performing an act which by now has become almost a laughable parody of itself; the brief pause and glance at the notes; the halting speech punctuated by his upraised-chin drifting left and right. Telling us, with all his sage wisdom, that “we cannot, and will not be passive in the face of such violence.”

And yet, any measure of wisdom would dictate just that. Bad Things Happen. This is an immutable fact of life. We will never live in a land free of violence, and we will never see the end of hate. It’s a distant future in which modern genetics rids us of the scourge of madness. No amount of speechifying, legislation, or enforcement will make us any safer than we are today. A fellow named Moses tried to outlaw murder 3000 or so years ago; it was a well-meaning effort, but it’s met with mixed results at best. You’re kidding yourself if you think Barack Obama can do any better.

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