Friday, February 24, 2012


In today's column about Mitt Romney, Paul Krugman issues a necessary caveat at the very end -- but only after going on at great length in this manner:

According to Michael Kinsley, a gaffe is when a politician accidently tells the truth. That's certainly what happened to Mitt Romney on Tuesday, when in a rare moment of candor -- and, in his case, such moments are really, really rare -- he gave away the game.

Speaking in Michigan, Mr. Romney was asked about deficit reduction, and he absent-mindedly said something completely reasonable: "If you just cut, if all you're thinking about doing is cutting spending, as you cut spending you’ll slow down the economy." A-ha. So he believes that cutting government spending hurts growth, other things equal.

... Almost surely, he is, in fact, a closet Keynesian.

Krugman goes on to say that Romney must be a closet Keynesian because he "is not a stupid man," and thus he can't help seeing the disaster Europeans are inflicting on themselves. (I don't know -- if the Europeans can't see that, why be so sure Romney can?) Krugman cites the Keynesian pedigrees of Romney's top economic advisers.

Only at the very, very end does Krugman warn us that while Romney may privately be a moderate, he may continue to posture as an extremist once he's in office:

If he doesn't dare disagree with economic nonsense now, why imagine that he would become willing to challenge that nonsense later? And bear in mind that if elected, he would be watched like a hawk for signs of apostasy by the very people he's trying so desperately to appease right now.

The truth is that Mr. Romney is so deeply committed to insincerity that neither side can trust him to do what it considers to be the right thing.

That's not good enough, Paul.

Here's what's going to happen: After the Romney Death Star finishes off Rick Santorum and Romney obtains the nomination, mainstream media chin-scratchers from the center, and even from the nominal left, are going to start telling us, in columns and on Sunday morning talk shows, that Romney is really, really a moderate, particularly on economics (and how dare the Obama campaign say otherwise) -- even Paul Krugman says so.

This talking point may not be heard a lot, but it will be enough to persuade at least a few folks who regard themselves as smarter than the typical GOP yahoo that Romney is all right, that he's ... safe.


Me, I believe that Romney and his advisers have now partaken of the Kool-Aid. One of the advisers Krugman reassures us is nice and Keynesian, Glenn Hubbard, was on a conference call with reporter Wednesday discussing Romney's new tax proposal. Ezra Klein wrote:

"If you take the spending and tax pieces together, it's a narrative of the policy agenda and life under a Romney presidency," Hubbard said. And so it is. But if you really follow the numbers, and the policies they imply, it may not be the narrative the Romney campaign wants.

...Under a Romney presidency, there will be a massive redistribution -- or perhaps it should be called a re-redistribution -- from low-income people who depend on government programs such as Medicaid to higher-income folks who pay taxes.

...[The tax plan] cuts spending as a percentage of GDP to 20 percent by 2016. And it does so while boosting defense spending by billions of dollars. As Romney himself says, that will require spending cuts of about $500 billion in 2016 -- and they will all have to come from domestic spending.

...Romney would need to cut all domestic spending by 20 percent to make his numbers work. But Romney's proposal says his changes to Medicare and Social Security will only affect "younger generations," which suggests that Medicare and Social Security won't see large cuts in the next few years. And once you take those programs out of the mix, Romney needs to cut all domestic spending by 38 percent to make his numbers work.

...If Romney cut Medicaid entirely -- took it from the $407 billion its projected to cost in 2016 and moved it to zero -- his numbers wouldn't work. If he then excised out all spending on food stamps — taking them from a projected $80 billion in 2016 to nothing — he still wouldn’t be there.

Getting a sense of the nastiness in this? There's no closet. Romney and his so-called Keynesians are hiding the extremism in plain sight.

1 comment:

BH said...

Bless Krugman's heart and undoubted good intentions, but this is one more small item of evidence to support the notion that academics are better seen than heard when it comes to electoral politics.