Dueling portraits of Maya MacGuineas: Paul Krugman keeps telling the same story well.
Today, he starts his column with Starbuck’s version of Steve Jobs. He discusses Howard Schultz, a man who is said to be spreading confusion about our budget mess:
KRUGMAN (12/31/12): Brewing Up ConfusionKrugman parses the letter well. (We suggest you read the whole column.) Before long, Krugman is saying that Schultz is actually part of the problem. He says Schultz’s letter, which blames both sides, is “actively harmful:”
Howard Schultz, the C.E.O. of Starbucks, has a reputation as a good guy, a man who supports worthy causes. And he presumably thought he would add to that reputation when he posted an open letter urging his employees to promote fiscal bipartisanship by writing “Come together” on coffee cups.
In reality, however, all he did was make himself part of the problem. And his letter was actually a very good illustration of the forces that created the current mess.
In the letter, Mr. Schultz warned that elected officials “have been unable to come together and compromise to solve the tremendously important, time-sensitive issue to fix the national debt,” and suggested that readers further inform themselves at the Web site of the organization Fix the Debt. Let’s parse that, shall we?
KRUGMAN: Look, it’s true that elected politicians have been unable to “come together and compromise.” But saying that in generic form, and implying a symmetry between Republicans and Democrats, isn’t just misleading, it’s actively harmful.We can’t help noting one point: It isn’t just Schultz who is pushing the symmetry line. Yesterday, David Gregory’s Meet the Press panel took turns pushing the same doggone script! Even when they said it wasn’t Obama’s fault, they found ways to say it was!
For our money, Tom Brokaw was the most annoying of Gregory's pundits. But such names can’t be named in the Times, so Schultz’s will have to do.
One more name appears in Krugman’s column—the name of Maya MacGuineas. Basically, Krugman says that she is a tool. He says she’s trying to muddle the issue—and getting good press in the process:
KRUGMAN: How could someone as well connected as Mr. Schultz get such a basic point wrong? By talking to the wrong people—in particular, the people at Fix the Debt, who’ve been doing their best to muddle the issue. For example, in a new fund-raising letter Maya MacGuineas, the organization’s public face, writes of the need to “make hard decisions when it comes to averting the ‘fiscal cliff’ and stabilizing our national debt”—even though the problem with the fiscal cliff is precisely that it stabilizes the debt too soon. Clearly, Ms. MacGuineas was trying to confuse readers on that point, and she apparently confused Mr. Schultz too.Be sure to read Krugman’s whole column, which is very clearly expressed. When you’re done, read this upbeat profile of MacGuineas from last Monday’s New York Times.
You might not know it reading some credulous reporting, but Fix the Debt isn’t some kind of new gathering of concerned citizens. On the contrary, it’s just the latest addition to a group of deficit-scold shops supported by billionaire Peter Peterson...
Just a guess: In part, Krugman is referring to that profile when he slams the “credulous reporting” about Fix the Debt. For the record, that profile was written by Annie Lowrey, a “new wonk on the block.”
Lowrey is married to Ezra Klein. (We regard that as a good thing.) She is one the bright young kids who are currently being shaped into a new liberal/mainstream elite.
Is Annie Lowrey a serious player—or is she just a Serious Person? As promised in our post below, we’ll be posing such questions all week.
An additional question: How do these kids get so far so fast? Now you're starting to ask good questions about this emerging elite!