The New York Times allowed Matthew Bishop to write its review of Paul Krugman’s new book, End This Depression Now! Mr. Bishop is The US Business Editor and New York Bureau Chief of the Economist, a very serious paper. Mr. Bishop himself is a Very Serious Person, although he doesn’t seem to understand the point of that term, and he takes umbrage:
Yet no opportunity to preach to the choir is missed by the populist Mr. Krugman, nor any chance to mock those he calls the “Very Serious People” who disagree with him.
To this Moderately Serious Reviewer, Krugman’s habit of bashing anyone who does not share his conclusions is not merely stylistically irritating; it is flawed in substance.
Mr. Bishop noticed that Krugman doesn’t give any credence to the economic theory created by public relations flacks for the billionaire consensus, that the problem is lazy overpaid over-pensioned incompetent US workers who immorally refuse to pay their debts to their betters. Certainly the problem isn’t the lazy writers hired by the pretend meritocracy, who faithfully reproduce that nonsense in dressy faux-British prose to justify the self-satisfaction of the 1%.
The few substantive comments put forward by Mr. Bishop are thoroughly trashed by Jared Bernstein, among others; so let’s move on to Mr. Bishop’s other big problem with the book:
Maybe his case for stimulating the economy in the short run would be taken more seriously by those in power if it were offered along with a Bowles-¬Simpson-style plan for improving America’s finances in the medium or long term.
Mr. Bishop thinks that Krugman is solving the wrong problem: it isn’t massive unemployment that is wrecking the country, it’s the long-term possibility that increased national debt might lead to increased inflation or taxes on the rich. It’s the mere possibility that some of the loss from the Great Crash might fall on the guilty elites instead of the rest of us.
Mr. Bishop can’t stomach Krugman’s mocking tone, his insolence towards his wealthy betters. Krugman is betraying his social class, appealing over their heads to the “informed public” (scare quotes are Mr. Bishop’s). Well, Mr. Bishop, democracy is not just another piece of pretense from the oligarchy, which the insider Krugman should pretend to accept while making his case to his superiors in one of those quiet rooms they approve.
Even Jared Bernstein thinks Krugman should do something else:
Instead, I’d urge [Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz] to think more about real politics and how to get out of this mess given the stark realities of political dysfunction.
Meaning no disrespect, I ask Bernstein how that worked out for him? Or for Christy Romer? They both failed at insider politics. Politics is not a meritocratic game, where the best argument and the best evidence lead to the best conclusions and actions anymore, if it ever was.
People who say this out loud are generally ignored by the likes of Mr. Bishop, and if they have enough clout to get that view out in the public sphere, Mr. Bishop inspects his bank balance and lets fly with all the supercilious disdain he learned at the feet of the Economist editors.
Krugman played their game. He spent the first years of the Obama administration putting his ideas into his economic papers and conference presentations in measured, professorial terms, and using his column to call attention to those ideas. His results are no better than Bernstein’s, though the fact that they are public at all is an affront to Mr. Bishop.
Suck on this, Mr. Bishop. You are arguing in bad faith, and your weekly rag is too. Neither of you are interested in the evidence or the logic of the argument. You aren’t even interested in the favorite of conservatives, the argument from authority: Krugman is a Nobel Prize winner and has big space in for the New York Times, and he was right and you and your clients were wrong about everything. You don’t care that he is an independent writer and professor while you work for the interests of the rich.
Your reporting conceals the real problem facing this country: the dominance of the rich, the elite, the lords of finance, the owners of dressage horses and Brawny Paper Towels. They don’t want to eat their losses. They want the middle class to pay those losses. What’s your solution to that problem?
Edited to delete incorrect reference to date of Krugman’s Nobel Prize.