Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Principles Must Adapt To Changing Situations


Republicans are out, Democrats are in, and everyone must change sides! This dynamic may create awkwardness for those who have left a paper trail but will also create a target-rich environment for others. Let's start with the Most Influential Lib in the media today, Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, writing in 2009 about the Obama stimulus recovery plan:

But the obvious cheap shots don’t pose as much danger to the Obama administration’s efforts to get a plan through as arguments and assertions that are equally fraudulent but can seem superficially plausible to those who don’t know their way around economic concepts and numbers. So as a public service, let me try to debunk some of the major antistimulus arguments that have already surfaced. Any time you hear someone reciting one of these arguments, write him or her off as a dishonest flack.

First, there’s the bogus talking point that the Obama plan will cost $275,000 per job created. Why is it bogus? Because it involves taking the cost of a plan that will extend over several years, creating millions of jobs each year, and dividing it by the jobs created in just one of those years.

It’s as if an opponent of the school lunch program were to take an estimate of the cost of that program over the next five years, then divide it by the number of lunches provided in just one of those years, and assert that the program was hugely wasteful, because it cost $13 per lunch. (The actual cost of a free school lunch, by the way, is $2.57.)
The true cost per job of the Obama plan will probably be closer to $100,000 than $275,000 — and the net cost will be as little as $60,000 once you take into account the fact that a stronger economy means higher tax receipts.

OK, keep that "dishonest flack" exhortation in mind and ponder this from 2003, when Krugman's topic was the Bush tax cuts:

Did you know that President Bush's economic plan will create 1.4 million jobs? Oh, and did I mention that the plan will create 1.4 million jobs? And don't forget, the plan will create 1.4 million jobs.

Not that the budget cost is minor. The average American worker earns only about $40,000 per year; why does the administration, even on its own estimates, need to offer $500,000 in tax cuts for each job created? If it's all about jobs, wouldn't it be far cheaper just to have the government hire people? Franklin Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration put the unemployed to work doing all kinds of useful things; why not do something similar now? (Hint: this would be a good time to do something serious, finally, about port security.)

Hmm, ten years of tax cuts with a total cost of $500,00 per job weighed against one year of earnings. Gee, it's almost as if the writer was making a phony statement about the school lunch program, or, dare we say it, was a dishonest flack.


Let me close with this missed Self Awareness Moment from Krugman's new column:

As the debate over President Obama’s economic stimulus plan gets under way, one thing is certain: many of the plan’s opponents aren’t arguing in good faith. Conservatives really, really don’t want to see a second New Deal, and they certainly don’t want to see government activism vindicated. So they are reaching for any stick they can find with which to beat proposals for increased government spending.

Uh huh. And by way of contrast, there is not a lib to be found who is anything other than agnostic about the efficacy of Roosevelt's New Deal, and nowhere are there libs who are anything other than dispassionately curious about whether government activism and increased government spending really can be effective in improving society's well-being. The only cheerleaders are on the right - got it.

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