Welcome to the main event. In this corner, in the extremely blue trunks, Paul “The Nobel Laureate in Economics” Krugman. And in this corner, in the moderate blue trunks, Barack “The President of the United States” Obama. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to RUMBLE!
For a while now, NYT columnist Paul Krugman has been using his column and blog to eviscerate President Obama’s economic plan. He has been particularly hard on Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, though he has not spared his wrath for the rest of Obama’s economic team. This is curious as he holds Lawrence Summers, Cristina Romer and Paul Volcker in such high regard.
The conspiracy theory is that he is miffed that he hasn’t been consulted by the Obama administration, or according to some, named to a position. There are four reasons Professor Krugman has not been brought into the inner circle.
- He doesn’t have the temperament. He has spent his entire adult life in academia. The only time he dipped his toe into the “real world” was a year spent with the Reagan administration as a staff member of the Council of Economic Advisers. He likes to lecture, and he does it very well. Working with others who have different ideas is not in his DNA.
- He has an Ivory Tower view of his discipline. Having little experience in the “real world” he is unaware of the non-technical issues involved.
- Having no experience in government, he doesn’t understand compromise in trying to politically sell a policy.
- He doesn’t want to. From the outside, he has no skin in the game, no accountability. Taking pot-shots is fun and easy. Working with others to develop viable policy is hard and open to criticism.
Make no mistake, Krugman is no dummy. He received his PhD from M.I.T. and has taught at some of the best economics departments in the world. His work on “comparative advantage” was brilliant and worthy of his Nobel Prize. And he is using his position as a “celebrity economist” to push his views. But his vicious attacks smack of politics and not constructive ideas.
For more on what makes Professor Krugman tick, read Even Thomas’ excellent piece in Newsweek: