Krugman explains where it came from: The worst news report we saw last week appeared in the New York Times.
We refer to the featured news report in Thursday’s National section. In the hard-copy New York Times, the news report appeared beneath these headlines:
Better News In New Study That Assesses U.S. Students
Majority Outperform International Average
Those headlines were strange on their own. It has been known since December that American students outperformed the international average on both tests in question. (The tests in Grade 8 science and math on the 2011 TIMSS.)
That said, the report which ran beneath those headlines was a jumbled, incompetent mess. It was written by Motoko Rich, a New York Times education reporter who graduated summa cum laude from Yale in the early 1990s.
Rich’s piece is such a mess that we’ll plan to examine it in detail next week. But how could a person with that pedigree compose such a jumbled mess?
Paul Krugman may have answered that question in Friday’s column! He was talking about Alan Greenspan’s bungled economic predictions when he did.
A group of ranking public figures keep predicting economic doom, Krugman noted. Their predictions keep turning out to be wrong, but journalists agree not to notice.
In the passage shown below, Krugman comments on a failed prediction by Greenspan. In the first passage we highlight, Krugman explains the way our current “journalistic” system works:
KRUGMAN (10/24/13): As I’ve already suggested, there are two remarkable things about this kind of doomsaying. One is that the doomsayers haven’t rethought their premises despite being wrong again and again—perhaps because the news media continue to treat them with immense respect...Greenspan’s gloomy prediction turned out to be wrong—but he just keeps making similar predictions! And then you see that highlighted statement, in which Krugman describes the way our “journalists” react to such events:
It’s actually awesome, in a way, to realize how long cries of looming disaster have filled our airwaves and op-ed pages. For example, I just reread an op-ed article by Alan Greenspan in The Wall Street Journal, warning that our budget deficit will lead to soaring inflation and interest rates. What about the reality of low inflation and low rates? That, he declares in the article, is “regrettable, because it is fostering a sense of complacency.”
It’s curious how readily people who normally revere the wisdom of markets declare the markets all wrong when they fail to panic the way they’re supposed to. But the really striking thing at this point is the date: Mr. Greenspan’s article was published in June 2010, almost three and a half years ago—and both inflation and interest rates remain low.
So has the ex-Maestro reconsidered his views after having been so wrong for so long? Not a bit. His new (and pretty bad) book declares that “the bias toward unconstrained deficit spending is our top domestic economic problem.”
Despite the fact that Greenspan and the other doomsayers are “wrong again and again,” “the news media continue to treat them with immense respect.”
Krugman names other famous doomsayers who have made failed predictions. He doesn’t name any journalists.
That said, Krugman’s column explains the way our world actually works:
The way our “journalistic” world worksWhat’s described isn’t journalism, of course. But it is the way our “journalistic” world works.
High-ranking establishment figures issue a set of Official Approved Ideas and Beliefs. No matter how many times their claims turn out to be wrong, the press corps agrees not to notice.
The elite figures advancing these claims are treated as sacred beings. Journalists refuse to note their endless mistakes and misstatements.
As with economics, so with public schools! Doomsayers walk the land, issuing morbid proclamations. In the case of the public schools, their cries are often inaccurate.
But our nation’s “journalists” know they mustn’t notice that fact. The doomsayers are sacred beings! Their gloomy claims carry the force of law.
On Thursday, a summa cum laude Yale graduate wrote a puzzling, jumbled report. How did she produce such a mess?
We can’t really answer that question. Is it possible that Krugman’s column has given us part of our answer?
Still coming: Friedman in Shanghai