Krugman’s Blog 2/2/13

There were four posts.  The first was “Cockroach Ideas:”

Three decades ago, when I went off for my year in the U.S. government, an old hand explained to me the nature of the job: it was mostly about fighting bad ideas. And these bad ideas, he went on to explain, were like cockroaches: no matter how many times you flush them down the toilet, they keep coming back.

Lovely image, isn’t it? But I’m feeling a bit grumpy this morning, and have been noticing a lot of cockroaches lately.

Thursday night I gave a book talk at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which was actually a lovely event. But sure enough, there were people in the audience insisting that Barney Frank, as part of a powerless minority in the House, nonetheless somehow caused the housing bubble and the whole crisis; years of careful, evidence-based refutations have made no impact at all on these people. Although I have to admit that I’m a bad person; after one questioner finished his peroration with “Am I wrong?”, I did kind of enjoy saying, “Yes, you’re wrong”.

And then there’s the “Keynesians said the stimulus would fix the economy, and it didn’t, so Keynes was wrong” — Dean Baker points us to Joe Scarborough on the subject, and carefully walks us through what we knew and when we knew it. But here’s an even easier takedown: just look at what I was writing in early 2009, here and here. What part of “the Obama plan just doesn’t look adequate to the economy’s need” is so hard to understand?

To paraphrase an old line about Vietnam, sometimes it seems to me that we haven’t spent four years discussing the response to economic crisis; we’ve spent one year discussing the crisis, four times, with the discussion starting up each year as if nobody can remember or learn from what went before, and with constant repetition of the same old errors and fallacies.

Sometimes I get comments from people accusing me of repeating myself in the column; no doubt I do make the same arguments multiple times. But that’s because people keep forgetting!

OK, rant for the morning over.

Next he posted “Government Spending in the Crisis:”

Mostly a note to myself. Not long ago, the usual suspects were going on and on about how government spending had soared under Obama, pointing to spending as a share of GDP. Some of us tried to point out that this bump represented two temporary factors: 1. GDP was depressed thanks to the crisis, so the spending share was correspondingly elevated 2. Emergency aid programs, notably unemployment benefits, were up because of the crisis. The implication of this argument was that the government spending share would decline as the economy recovered.

Conservatives were, of course, having none of it — Obama was permanently enlarging the government to European size. So, how’s it going?

In the figure below the blue line shows government spending at all levels as a share of GDP; the red line shows the share of potential GDP — what we’d be producing at normal employment — as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office; it’s lower than the first line because the economy is still operating well below capacity.

Down we come.

Next up was “WWS543, Class 1: A Brief History of Trade Policy:”

Slides (pdf).

His last post for the day was “No Satisfaction:”

I’m Stephanopoulizing tomorrow, and as part of the preparation I had to watch a bunch of Superbowl ads. There went a series of 30-second chunks of my life I’ll never get back.

But one ad really disturbed me — and no, it wasn’t the one with Bar Rafaeli. You see, I remember when the Rolling Stones were the Rolling Stones, and would sing things like this:

When I’m watchin’ my T.V.
And that man comes on to tell me
How white my shirts can be
But he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke
The same cigarrettes as me

And now “Sympathy for the devil” is the sound track for a Mercedes ad. Yes, I know that there’s supposed to be some irony, because the car doesn’t cost as much as you’d think, and they’re making a joke about expecting Kate Upton to come with the package. But still …

Well, Prof. Krugman, the ads may be a waste of time but not as much of a waste as the game itself or all the hoopla attendant thereunto.

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