It’s hard for the gang to stay calm: Yesterday morning, Paul Krugman did a 21-minute segment on Morning Joe. To watch the full segment, click this.
There were no commercial breaks. Eight hours later, Joe Scarborough offered his thoughts in Politico under this headline: “Paul Krugman vs. the world.”
It may have seemed that way to someone watching the lengthy segment. Former governor Ed Rendell took a fairly balanced view. But by the end, it became quite clear—the rest of the Morning Joe gang weren’t buying Paul Krugman’s crazy outlook.
How thoroughly was Krugman rejected? According to Scarborough, several pundits found it hard to stay calm in the face of Krugman's wild views!
As he started his column, Scarborough burlesqued Krugman’s stance:
SCARBOROUGH (1/28/13): Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman came on “Morning Joe” Monday to discuss his latest book and the state of affairs in Washington. Mr. Krugman's view is that Americans would be better off if its government ran deeper deficits and ignored its long-term debt. That, of course, runs counter to conventional wisdom across the Western world, which is exactly why the New York Times columnist believes Spain and Great Britain are suffering through endless recessions.Does Krugman actually think we should “ignore our long-term debt?” We’ve seen him say very different things in more civilized surroundings—on Charlie Rose, for example. Soon, Scarborough explained how hard it was for the gang to stay calm as Krugman voiced his views:
SCARBOROUGH (continuing directly): His argument also runs counter to what I have been saying in Congress and in the media since 1994...But most of our viewers did not tune in to hear me talk over the Nobel Prize winner. They tuned in to hear Paul Krugman. So I did my best to give him space.In fairness, Brzezinski didn’t actually use the term “head in the sand” and her alleged gasp wasn’t audible. But on this gender throwback program, Brzezinski has always been willing to serve as a foil for her dominant male co-host.
But maintaining calm was not as easy for Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, who agrees with former Joint Chief chairman Michael Mullen, that long-term debt poses the greatest threat to America 's national security. Richard took exception to the suggestion that deficits don't matter and that long-term debt can be pushed to the side for years to come. Mr. Haass, Admiral Mullen and former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles all believe that entitlements and debt are the most pressing challenges we face as a country over the next few decades.
You can add my liberal co-host, Mika Brzezinski, to that group. Mika let out a gasp when Mr. Krugman suggested Medicare and Medicaid shortfalls should be ignored. She compared Krugman's "head-in-the-sand" approach to the one taken by climate change deniers.
In this case, he jacked her reaction beyond what it was, without explaining why we should think that Mika is equipped to gasp at, and thereby refute, a Nobel-winning economist. (We certainly wouldn’t be.) In fairness, Brzezinski's interjection near the end of the segment was foolish on its own terms, without her co-host's embellishments.
Let’s return to Joe’s picture:
It wasn’t easy for the gang to stay calm when Krugman began to expound—and Mika even let out a gasp! Add to this childish crayon drawing the following words from an angry Steve Rattner and it’s time for the children to take their picture home to Mommy.
Ignore the initial sentence structure. We added some punctuation:
SCARBOROUGH: [Krugman’s] response drew a spirited email from former Treasury official and “Morning Joe” regular Steve Rattner in defense of Mika's analogy, who wrote the following:We're sorry, but Social Security is never going to “run out of money,” at least not in the way the term implies to the average person. But so what? As early as 1994, such presentations had famously convinced the bulk of younger Americans that they were more likely to see a UFO than to draw Social Security benefits. People like Rattner have been hustling such people every single day since.
“We are putting millions of tons of carbon in the air every day; we are also adding billions of dollars to our future entitlement obligations every day. We are borrowing (stealing?) from our children to pay far more in benefits to seniors than we are paying into the system.
“We have something like $60 trillion in unfunded liabilities to Medicare and Social Security. Paul Krugman would like us to just wait until those programs run out of money, at which point those unfunded liabilities would be just that much larger."
Scarborough’s drawing is wondrously childish—and even after all these years, Rattner won’t restrict himself to language which doesn’t mislead. Meanwhile, very few people who watched that segment really understood what the combatants were claiming.
In short, Scarborough failed to create a coherent discussion, then fed Politico this.
(For Greg Sargent’s reaction, click here.)