Krugman’s blog, 8/7, 8/8 and 8/9/15

There were two posts on Friday, one on Saturday, and two yesterday.  The first post on Friday was “The Economy Vanishes:”

There was almost no discussion of the economy in last night’s debate, which is actually weird if you consider the Republican self-image. These guys portray themselves as high priests of growth, the people who know how to bring prosperity. And remember all the crowing about how Obama was presiding over the worst recovery ever?

But now, not so much. The chart shows private-sector job gains after two recessions — the 2001 recession, and the 2007-2009 Great Recession — ended, in thousands. You can argue that the economy should have bounced back more strongly from the deeper slump; on the other hand, 2008 was a huge financial crisis, which tends to leave a bad hangover. Anyway, once the right is arguing that Obama’s better recovery wasn’t really his doing, it has already lost the argument.

Now, am I claiming that Obama caused all that job creation? No — policy was pretty much hamstrung from 2010 on. But the right confidently predicted that Obama’s policies, especially his “job-killing” health reform, would, well, kill jobs; as Matt O’Brien notes, The Donald confidently predicted that unemployment would go above 9 percent. None of that happened — nor did any of the other predicted Obama disasters.

Recovery should have been much faster, and I believe that there is still more slack than the unemployment rate suggests. But if President Romney were presiding over this economy, Republicans would be hailing it as the second coming of Ronald Reagan. Instead, they’re trying to talk about something else.

Friday’s second post was “Roots of Reaganolatry:”

Noah Smith suggests that Reagan worship reflects a misunderstanding of how the economy works — that those who idolize Reagan believe in the Green Lantern theory of presidential power, that presidents can make stuff happen, in the economy and elsewhere, though sheer force of will.

But the truth is that the cult of Reagan is much stranger and more disreputable than that. For the fact is that Reagan’s objective achievements weren’t all that great.

In terms of the economy, his record is trumped by Bill Clinton’s on every front: GDP growth, job creation, family incomes. For that matter, as Bill McBride points out, the average monthly rate of private-sector job creation under Jimmy Carter was faster than the average rate under Reagan. Carter just had the bad luck to preside over a recession at the end of his term, while Reagan’s was at the beginning.

We might also note that Reagan’s attempt to change the nature of the US welfare state was, in the light of history, a failure. Remember, he once crusaded against Medicare as a program that would destroy freedom; he came into office with the intention of dismantling Social Security. But he left with both programs intact (thanks, in part, to a big increase in payroll taxes during his time in office) — and now we have a more or less universal health insurance system.

So right-wing Reagan-worship requires a heavy dose of historical ignorance. But that’s not the only weird thing about the way today’s Republicans pledge their devotion to his legacy: Remember, Reagan was elected 35 years ago. That’s a long time: the election of 1980 is as distant from us now as the election of 1944 was when he was running. The America of Reagan’s triumph was in many ways another country — a country of still-powerful unions and bad coffee, with no internet or cell phones, in which a plurality of voters disapproved of interracial marriage. It’s quite remarkable that the right can’t find any more contemporary role models.

But Reagan has become an icon that never fades. Republicans will probably still be invoking his legacy in 2036, when Democrats will have nominated their first android — and Republicans will have nominated another white male.

Saturday’s post was “Mornings in America:”

Not the real America.
Not the real America

Just a further thought about Reaganolatry: consider the track of unemployment under two presidents. One is lauded as the ultimate economic hero and savior; the other reviled as an economic failure, who killed jobs by being nice to poor people and insulting job creators. The chart compares their records.

OK, you can come up with reasons why president#2’s record isn’t as good as it looks. But is there really enough contrast there to justify the difference in perception? How much of what we’re looking at is the psychological impact of a V-shaped recession — things got really bad, so there was a sense of relief when they got better? How much is simply the result of decades of propaganda?

Anyway, I’m surprised that this chart isn’t more widely discussed.

Yesterday’s first post was “Knitting History (Trivial):”

Via Brad DeLong, a great history of socks. But somehow it misses the economic geography story, where there once was a great hosiery center in Cohoes, near Albany, thanks to one Egbert Egberts, who invented the first power knitting frame. In England the comparable complex was in Nottingham.

Sorry, I know I’m just knit-picking. But I do love me economic geography origin stories, and Egbert Egberts is just too good a name to let lie.

I love his trivial stuff…  Yesterday’s second post was “Behold the Deep Bench:”

NBC has the first post-debate poll; it’s an online poll, but using a methodology that worked very well in the midterm elections. And it does not, it turns out, show the predicted Trump collapse and rise of the establishment candidates.

As some of us have been saying, the GOP is no longer a normal political party.

Ain’t that the truth…


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