Krugman’s blog, 11/17/15

There were two posts yesterday.  The first was “The Farce Is Strong In This One:”

And that one, and that one, and, well, across the board.

It took no time at all for the right-wing response to the Paris attacks to turn into a vile caricature that has me feeling nostalgic for the restraint and statesmanship of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

Marco Rubio says that we have to denounce radical Islam — as opposed to jihadists — because of Hitler; after all, making Islam the rhetorical equivalent of Nazism is just the right thing to win support from the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.

Niall Ferguson says that a terrorist attack on a couple of sites in a huge modern metropolis by a small number of gunmen is just likethe sack of Rome by the Goths.

Hugh Hewitt thinks that taking an Obama remark totally out of context will convince anyone except the right-wing base that the man who hunted down Osama bin Laden has been an anti-American terrorist sympathizer all along.

I’ve deliberately selected people who are sometimes portrayed as moderate, smart, or both. This is what the reasonable wing of the modern right looks like.

The second post yesterday was “Terrorists and Aliens:”

The Great Depression wasn’t ended by the intellectual victory of Keynesian economics; in fact, the publication of The General Theory was followed by the great mistake of 1937, when FDR tried to balance the budget too soon and send the U.S. economy into a severe recession. What put a decisive end to the slump was World War II, which led to deficit spending on a scale that was politically impossible before.

This story is what led me to facetiously suggest that we fake a threat from space aliens, to provide a politically acceptable cover for stimulus.

Now France has been attacked, unfortunately by real terrorists instead of fake aliens, and Hollande is declaring that security must take precedence over austerity. Is this the start of something big?

OK, obligatory disclaimer that will do no good in the face of the stupidity. I am NOT saying that terrorism is a good thing, just as those of us who point to wartime fiscal stimulus aren’t saying that World War II was a good thing. (Don’t kill baby Hitler — we need him to justify stimulus!) We’re just trying to think through some side effects of the atrocity.

The question we should ask is whether the fiscal indiscipline caused by jihadists will make a significant difference to French performance.

Well, my guess is that the numbers will probably be too small. U.S. defense and security spending rose by around 2 percent of GDP after 9/11 — but that involved a much bigger military buildup than France is likely to undertake, plus the Iraq War. More likely we’re looking at fraction of a percent of GDP, which is small compared with the austerity Europe has imposed. Unless the French response is much bigger than I’m imagining, the impact on growth won’t be large.

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