Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bernie Supporters Go Off on Paul Krugman the Messenger

Over the last few weeks, Paul Krugman has questioned Sanders' fuzzy math. How dare he? Why, he's just an economist!

While worrying about truthiness, Krugman didn't see the wild,
unabating anger coming from the left. He does now.

I'm both a follower and a fan of Paul Krugman, having read him from his Slate days in the late 90s right up to every blog post on his "Conscience of a Liberal" blog at the New York Times. I check his writings daily because they amount to a running critique of modern macroeconomics put through the grinder of modern political life. Man, can politics take economics and make some pretty nasty sausage.

His readers should by now be painfully aware that he decided to take on the numbers in Bernie Sanders' policy positions and found some pretty suspect figures. Just talking about these discrepancies has unleashed the hounds of those who feel the Bern on poor Krugman.

The fact that it appears he's right about this -- I don't see any holes in his observations, and I favor Sanders' policies over Clinton's -- has little or no effect on Sanders' hordes (and they have been so vitriolic in the comment threads that they indeed deserve to be called "hordes"). "Hillary Shill" is not the worst accusation they toss as him, though, in their eyes, that term is intended to bite.

Here's Krugman's view in a nutshell: Bernie Sanders is not quite open enough about how his numbers don't add up -- his Medicare for all is more costly and harmful to a segment of the middle class than Sanders cares to admit -- and an economist the Sanders campaign relies on, Gerald Feldstein, has tossed out some pretty crazy numbers (average 5.3% GDP growth over a decade) that neither the candidate nor his campaign has disavowed.

For Krugman, that's tantamount to "progressive voodoo," something Krugman has been routinely lauded for by his followers over the years when he hangs that term on conservatives. "Reality has a distinct liberal bias" has been a rallying cause. The left simply is stronger because they don't have the record of voodoo economics, zombie lies, and absurd claims that litter the trail conservatives have traveled. It's the left's superpower, so to speak. It's called The Truth, full stop.
Paul Krugman is now accusing Bernie Sanders of “deep voodoo” economics.That’s a particularly damning insult among liberals, who pride themselves on being on the side of reason, evidence, and general wonkishness. Krugman’s dis came on the heels of an open letter released today by four big-wig liberal economists—all of whom either served in the Obama or Clinton administrations—claiming that “no credible economic research” shows that Sanders’s spending-heavy economic plan will result in the huge gains outlined in a paper endorsed by his policy director.
The paper, conducted by economist Gerald Friedman, predicts GDP growth of over 5 percent and an unemployment rate of under 4 percent in a Sanders administration. As Krugman notes, liberals have laughed at Jeb Bush for claiming he could produce 4 percent growth.
One of the signatories of the letter, Austan Goolsbee, has also taken Sanders to task for claiming that revenue under his single-payer health plan would match the projected addition, by critics’ estimates, of some $2 trillion to $3 trillion to the deficit every year. He told the Times that Sanders’s “puppies and rainbows” agenda had “evolved into magic flying puppies with winning Lotto tickets tied to their collars.” Other doubters include the respected economist (and blogger) Jared Bernstein, who said Friedman’s paper contains a lot of “wishful thinking.”
Stephen Colbert, I believe, was not just tossing out a funny-bone line when he coined the term "truthiness" a decade ago. He looked at the theory of confirmation bias and conservative practices of message framing and came up with a witty, hilarious term of art that is a deadly sharp stiletto into the heart of the conservative penchant for putting lipstick on horseshit decade after decade.

So I stand with Paul Krugman on this, not as a critique of Sanders the candidate but as a demand that all on the left have a responsibility to avoid progressive voodoo precisely because we lose one of our most valuable tools in the progressive toolbox by giving conservatives a place to hide.

The landscape favors progressives when they're consistently -- and measurably -- more honest than those on the center-right, right, and far-right. Krugman wants to retain that advantage.

The Bernie Hordes only hear the critique of their messiah, their leader of the political revolution that, yes, America needs but for heaven's sake cannot possibly pull off in 2016. Berkeley econ professor and Krugman bro Brad DeLong seems to agree with his notion of pragmatism over ideology, though them's fightin' words to those who back Sanders' call for revolution now.

Sanders' followers counter that "you refuse to recognize that we, too, are mad as hell and ready for a revolution that Hillary will never deliver to us, so you're a Hillary shill and, worse, you've become one of the VSP's that you've been scoffing at for years. Paul, you poopin' poophead!"

All Krugman asks is that Bernie and his followers live up to the simple creed that our power is in the very persuasiveness that truth provides us. Truthiness is for the Limbaughs, Kasichs, O'Reillys, Ludlows, Cavutos, Rubios, Cruz's, and the Trumps. We're better than that. All Krugman wants if for the numbers to add up, and right now they don't. When they do, Paul Krugman will say, "There. That's better. That's all I wanted. Good for you."

He still doesn't think Sanders can pull off the revolution this particular year or anytime soon, and, yes, Krugman is, then, more of an incrementalist like Clinton, but that's for another day.

Oh, and please don't yell at me.

Update. Clinton is coasting to a four-point victory in Nevada. Not huge, but a small rebuke to Bernie-mentum.

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