Krugman discusses the Jindal moves!


And Ryan’s shifting statistic: Bobby Jindal has been scolding his own GOP, calling it “the stupid party.”

In today’s column, Paul Krugman quotes Jindal making another bold-sounding statement: “We must not be the party that simply protects the well-off so they can keep their toys. We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive.”

As Krugman notes, Jindal’s snark about “the well-off” is new to the GOP. But uh-oh! Krugman notes what Jindal has now proposed for Louisiana—shifts in taxes which will benefit the well-off and penalize the poor and the middle class.

As Krugman notes, “similar plans are being pushed by a number of other Republican governors.” Why are they doing this, he asks, “just after an election in which the G.O.P. paid a price for its anti-populist stand?”

Krugman says he doesn’t know—and we don’t know either. But to us, some of Krugman’s speculations in this passage seem wrong or unfounded:
KRUGMAN (1/28/13): Well, I don’t have a full answer, but I think it’s important to understand the extent to which leading Republicans live in an intellectual bubble. They get their news from Fox and other captive media, they get their policy analysis from billionaire-financed right-wing think tanks, and they’re often blissfully unaware both of contrary evidence and of how their positions sound to outsiders.

So when Mr. Romney made his infamous “47 percent” remarks, he wasn’t, in his own mind, saying anything outrageous or even controversial. He was just repeating a view that has become increasingly dominant inside the right-wing bubble, namely that a large and ever-growing proportion of Americans won’t take responsibility for their own lives and are mooching off the hard-working wealthy.
That first statement is certainly true of many Republican voters. Many such voters do “get their news from Fox” and from similar outlets.

But Bobby Jindal plainly isn’t the average Republican voter. According to the leading authority on his life, Jindal graduated from Brown at age 20 with honors in both parts of a double major—biology and public policy. Eschewing Harvard Med School and Yale Law, at both of which he'd been accepted, he then went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

Jindal is plenty smart. He doesn’t “get his news from Fox.” Whatever he has decided to propose, he knows how to gather information.

Meanwhile, is Jindal “blissfully unaware” of the way his positions will sound to outsiders? We have no idea. Nor are we entirely sure that the electorate has arrived at the liberal position on these matters—or that mainstream journalists and pundits, Krugman excepted, will push the Republican governors about these regressive proposals.

So too with Romney. When he made his famous remark about the 47 percent, did he really believe his statement, as Krugman seems to assume? We have no idea. How do we know he wasn’t pandering to a roomful of donors—to people who do "get their news from Fox," people who presumably do believe that unpleasant twaddle?

We constantly say that Romney is fake. Then we assume he's sincere when he makes ridiculous comments.

One last comment, this time about Krugman’s views concerning Paul Ryan:

In the following passage, Krugman claims that Ryan is renouncing a previous position about the 60 percent. But does anyone know what Ryan’s statement ever meant in the first place?
KRUGMAN: Now, national politicians learned last year that this kind of talk plays badly with the public, so they’re trying to obscure their positions. Paul Ryan, for example, has lately made a transparently dishonest attempt to claim that when he spoke about “takers” living off the efforts of the “makers”—at one point he assigned 60 percent of Americans to the taker category—he wasn’t talking about people receiving Social Security and Medicare. (He was.)
Ryan made that claim about the 60 percent back in 2010 (see text below). When he did, was he talking about recipients of Medicare and Social Security? We don’t know, and we don’t know why Krugman thinks he does.

In the 2012 campaign, did any interviewer ever ask Ryan what this earlier statement meant? If so, we haven’t seen the transcript of the exchange.

With that in mind, this is our question: Given the way our discourse works, what reason is there to think that Ryan ever “meant” anything at all? How do we know he wasn't just tossing out numbers—spouting?

Yesterday morning, we saw what happened on Meet the Press when Ryan made the world’s most ridiculous statement (see our previous post). David Gregory didn’t even bother to ask him about that ludicrous statement.

Did anybody ever ask him what he meant by that claim about the 60 percent? Did anyone ever try to find out if he meant anything at all?

Krugman has constantly said that Ryan’s a fake. What makes us think that this consummate fake “meant” anything at all?

The statement to which Krugman refers: Here’s the statement to which Krugman refers, based on this link from his column:
RYAN (6/7/10): Right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes. So we're going to a majority of takers versus makers.
That’s what Ryan said in June 2010—and he on;ly said that we're "going to" a majority of takers! But uh-oh! In November 2011, Ryan put the number of takers at only 30 percent! (Or something—just click here.)

Did Ryan “mean” anything either time? Or was he simply spouting? And of course, the ultimate question:

Given the way our press corps works, did anyone ever ask?


  1. Pandering is the operative word. Just like that other Rhodes scholar.

  2. Bob has been trying to let Romney off the hook for the 47 % comment from the time he made it, and the pretzel he ties himself into here seems a continuation of that denial. Orin Hatch, a major Republican leader, made basically the same claim Romney did on the floor of the Senate a year before, raising the eyes of a few left bloggers (not Bob, of course) but not really anyone else. Romney's statement was applauded by many on the right (O"Reilly, Dennis Miller, Fox News) and it took him weeks to own up to the tactical blunder he had made. There has never been any reason to doubt his sincerity.
    What Bob doesn't like about it is shames the right in a way he can't really rationalize by slapping the left, and it seems to drive him a bit crazy.

    1. "slapping the left"

      The press corps -- who are really the ones getting slapped here -- aren't "the left."

  3. Krugman hasn't said that Ryan is "fake"; he's said that he's a "flim-flam man." It's not the same thing. Ryan spins out stuff to his Beltway audience to serve his ends, but his ends, according to both his words and the thrust of the policies he supports and proposes, are very much pointed towards a world informed by the Randian "takers and makers" ethos. We don't KNOW, for a fact, what it is, if anything, Ryan believes, but in the end, by their fruits ye shall know them, and all that. Either he believes the ideology he has talked about, or he's utterly corrupted by big money.

  4. I have to say I think Bob is being a real nit picker on this one. I think I understand what Krugman is saying and why. I would be a nit picker too if I gave Bob too much over this small criticism. I may be wrong but isn't Jindal a creationist or support the teaching of creationism in public schools? If so that really contradicts all his scholarly credentials. I think I can boil all the recent rhetoric coming from the republicans to that they want to change how they appear but not how they are.

    1. I think I can boil all the recent rhetoric coming from the republicans to that they want to change how they appear but not how they are.

      Exactly right.

  5. There are two key aspects to the makers/takers dichotomy: moral and fiscal. Republicans might to better to focus on the fiscal side.

    From a moral POV, federal retirees have a right to their pensions and health care because they earned these benefits. Other retirees like me have a right to SS and Medicare because we earned it. Welfare, food stamp, Medicaid and unemployment compensation recipients need their benefits to live on. People in these categories don’t think we’re unfairly taking government money. We will vote against any politician who asks us to give up some of our benefits.

    However, the fiscal POV isn't about morality. Annual federal deficits have been over a trillion dollar for four years in a row, with little hope of getting below that figure. The bulk of the spending is transfer payments from makers to takers like me. The ratio of takers to makers is going up, as more people retire or get Medicare disability, while the size of the workforce stagnates. If this trend continues, it will lead to fiscal disaster.

  6. I've never doubted Jindal's intelligence; he is a very bright guy. I do suspect his character when he plays slack jawed to what he must assume is a very dim audience. Jindal's arrogance is quite off-putting. As you stated, blissful ignorance is not Jindal's problem, but he occasionally falls off the map in his attempt to manipulate his constituents. Very smart simply is not good enough; character and authenticity are the important traits and Jindal appears to possess neither.

    Romney's problem was similar in that his approach was equally insulting to voters. His belief and his Party's belief that they could win simply with a combination of mendacity, dog whistle manipulations and a train load of money was a very disrespectful approach toward voters if he wanted to lead them.

  7. The republican use of the word "entitlement" when referring to Social Security is deceitful, because it is retirement benefit insurance that is paid for by the employer and the employee, each contributing half of the sum of the payroll deduction. The idea that the baby boom population is responsible for the strain on SS benefits does not make sense, because that same population paid into SS its entire working life when, presumably, there was a smaller population of retirees who received the benefit. A number that has been kicked around of late is that SS, currently, has a $2 trillion surplus.

    1. gewall, you are right. It's not the case that the baby boom population is responsible for the problems of SS. Speaking as an actuary, the financial problems of SS come from two areas:

      1. The amount paid in by an employee and his employer is not enough to cover the benefits that employee will receive after he retires.

      2. SS is pretty much a pay-as-you-go plan. Money a person and his employer pay in is NOT saved to pay that person's benefits. Instead, money paid in goes to people already receiving benefits.

      SS got a big financial boost from the baby boomers and from women entering the work force. For several decades, these two trends caused a bulge in the number of working Americans, which meant more money was coming in to SS.

      Now, that boost is coming to an end. Benefits and SS income need to be brought into line, by some combination of increases in assessments and reductions in benefits.

  8. Mr. Somerby, you are a graduate of Harvard, right? Get over it.

    Please stop all this false pleading and start being honest about where heart and mind lead a decent human being (which, I remain hopeful, you aim to be). I am about to stop visiting here even to "keep my disgust alive."

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