We've largely ignored Paul Krugman's not so subtle and gratuitous anti-Obama jabs that seem to make their way into nearly every column. Speaking for myself, I've cut Krugman a lot of slack largely because he was one of the few voices of reason in the early Bush years. I've also chalked up some of his bizarre and counterproductive commentary to his admission that his current cynical take on Obama stems from some prior disappointment with the politics of idealism in 1968.
Today's column, however, just seemed to lay bare some of his prejudices. About a recent Obama speech he writes:
Worse yet, he seemed to go out of his way to avoid scoring political points. “Back in the 1990s,” he declared, “your incomes grew by $6,000, and over the last several years, they’ve actually fallen by nearly $1,000.” Um, not quite: real median household income didn’t rise $6,000 during “the 1990s,” it did so during the Clinton years, after falling under the first Bush administration. Income hasn’t fallen $1,000 in “recent years,” it’s fallen under George Bush, with all of the decline taking place before 2005.
Obama surrogates have shown a similar inclination to go for the capillaries rather than the jugular. A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by two Obama advisers offered another blizzard of statistics almost burying the key point — that most Americans would pay lower taxes under the Obama tax plan than under the McCain plan.
I find this attack interesting because the opening of the Furman-Goolsbee piece is basically a defense of the Clinton years and a fairly forceful and clear argument that Obama is in favor of low taxes:
Even as Barack Obama proposes fiscally responsible tax reform to strengthen our economy and restore the balance that has been lost in recent years, we hear the familiar protests and distortions from the guardians of the broken status quo.
Many of these very same critics made many of these same overheated predictions in previous elections. They said President Clinton's 1993 deficit-reduction plan would wreck the economy. Eight years and 23 million new jobs later, the economy proved them wrong. Now they are making the same claims about Sen. Obama's tax plan, which has even lower taxes than prevailed in the 1990s -- including lower taxes on middle-class families, lower taxes for capital gains, and lower taxes for dividends.
Did I read the same piece that Krugman did?
The irony is that today's Krugman is oddly reminiscent of the 1993 Krugman who basically threw a tantrum after being passed over by Bill Clinton in favor of Laura Tyson, to head the CEA. As Nicholas Confessore wrote in the Washington Monthly:
Krugman didn't take the rejection well, and lashed out at Clinton's appointees. To Washingtonians, the key division on the Clinton economic team lay between the stimulators, such as Reich and Tyson, and the deficit hawks, notably Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen and budget director Leon Panetta. But for Krugman, the key division was between real economists qualified to set national policy and policy entrepreneurs, who were not. In a Times article that January, he was quoted as saying Tyson lacked "analytical skills"--just a few weeks after giving a speech at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association lambasting Reich and Ira Magaziner as "pop internationalists" who "repeat silly clichés but imagine themselves to be sophisticated."
Reich, Tyson, and a handful of other alleged policy entrepreneurs came in for further attack in Krugman's next book, Peddling Prosperity (1994). It wasn't just that they were wrong, Krugman declared. It was that they were all dangerous hacks, snake-oil salesman selling foolish remedies to credulous politicians (like Clinton).
Maybe we can look forward to Krugman praising the Obama years in 2016!