The way our culture works: Paul Krugman writes the same column today for perhaps the three hundredth time.
It happens to be a very good column. It’s also a mark of the times.
Krugman starts by noting that a recent statement by John Boehner was pretty much absolute nonsense (see below). From there, he turns to his standard column. He’s written it three hundred times.
First, he states his basic point. Then he makes a phantasmagoric statement.
He’s written this column three hundred times. No one is paying attention:
KRUGMAN (2/8/13): But that’s a secondary issue. The key point is this: While it’s true that we will eventually need some combination of revenue increases and spending cuts to rein in the growth of U.S. government debt, now is very much not the time to act. Given the state we’re in, it would be irresponsible and destructive not to kick that can down the road.First, Krugman states “the key point.” After that, he says his point “really isn’t debatable.”
Start with a basic point: Slashing government spending destroys jobs and causes the economy to shrink.
This really isn’t a debatable proposition at this point. The contractionary effects of fiscal austerity have been demonstrated by study after study and overwhelmingly confirmed by recent experience—for example, by the severe and continuing slump in Ireland, which was for a while touted as a shining example of responsible policy, or by the way the Cameron government’s turn to austerity derailed recovery in Britain.
In one way, he’s right. In another way, he’s missing the shape of the culture.
Krugman comes close to being right. Without any question, his key point isn’t being debated. That’s because we live in an age when elites feel no obligation to react to argument, facts or analysis.
You can stick your “debate” right up your ascot! Our society’s Very Serious People operate outside the realm of proposition and debate.
Our elites tell us the stories they like. They then ignore everything else.
The whole world saw this culture play out when Krugman did Morning Joe two weeks back. Joe Scarborough let Krugman say his piece. Eight hours later, he ran to Politico and pretended that Krugman had made the world’s craziest statements. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/29/13.
Krugman’s statements weren’t crazy at all. But that had nothing to do with the way our culture works
Krugman’s column is very important. Or would be, in some other world.
Concerning what Boehner said: At the start of the column, Krugman notes the recent Boehner howler.
This is what John Boehner said—and why it was laughably wrong:
KRUGMAN: John Boehner, the speaker of the House, claims to be exasperated. “At some point, Washington has to deal with its spending problem,” he said Wednesday. “I’ve watched them kick this can down the road for 22 years since I’ve been here. I’ve had enough of it. It’s time to act.”Please. If you can think back fifteen years, you know that Boehner’s complaint is bogus. But so what? Ludicrous statements are the norm in our modern culture. They’re accepted by one and all.
Actually, Mr. Boehner needs to refresh his memory. During the first decade of his time in Congress, the U.S. government was doing just fine on the fiscal front. In particular, the ratio of federal debt to G.D.P. was a third lower when Bill Clinton left office than it was when he came in. It was only when George W. Bush arrived and squandered the Clinton surplus on tax cuts and unfunded wars that the budget outlook began deteriorating again.
Krugman points to the lunacy in what Boehner has said—but that’s where the discussion will end. Within our modern Potemkin news culture, no one cares if political leaders make claims which are clownishly wrong.
We’ve worked with Charles Blow’s column all week, and with the new book it draws on. His column made claims which are laughably bogus. But no one cares. It’s the norm.
Despite millennia of high-minded claims, this is the way our culture works. High-ranking people say crazy shit. Everyone acts like it’s normal.