Monday, September 07, 2009


I seem to be back online, which I didn't think was going to be possible until tonight, so I just want to make a quick point I was hoping to make yesterday. Paul Krugman had a very good piece in The New York Times Magazine about why economists were gobsmacked by the recession -- even many liberal Keynesians are now neo-Keynesians, which means they've fallen for a pet notion of the right-leaning anti-Keynesians, namely that markets simply don't make mistakes. Add the two groups together and you've got virtually an entire profession that thought -- and in some cases still thinks -- economic failure is impossible.

How can they argue that economic failure is impossible when we're living through economic failure? A couple of pages into the article, Krugman served up a couple of quotes from right-wing economists that were utterly appalling:

... Chicago's Casey Mulligan suggests that unemployment is so high because many workers are choosing not to take jobs: "Employees face financial incentives that encourage them not to work ... decreased employment is explained more by reductions in the supply of labor (the willingness of people to work) and less by the demand for labor (the number of workers that employers need to hire)." Mulligan has suggested, in particular, that workers are choosing to remain unemployed because that improves their odds of receiving mortgage relief. And [John] Cochrane [also of the University of Chicago] declares that high unemployment is actually good: "We should have a recession. People who spend their lives pounding nails in Nevada need something else to do."

Were these quotes in huge banner headlines across some lefty equivalent of the Drudge Report or Fox Nation? My ability to get on the Internet has been hit or miss the past couple of days, but I'm going to guess that the answer is no. And if I'm right, that's a big difference between our side and theirs.

This let-them-eat-cake crap should be prominently displayed somewhere; these economists should be demonized as enemies of ordinary Americans. (People are choosing not to work? And mortgage relief is their reason? What mortgage relief?) These guys should be the right's Ward Churchills; they should be hung around the necks of the GOP.

As it is, though, what they said is buried in the 60th paragraph of Krugman's article.

I don't blame him -- he was setting out to tell the story of the economic profession's failure, and he told it well. But we don't have a fully functioning noise machine to generate maximum anger at every target possible. And the other side does.

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