Monday, January 21, 2013

Talking Big, Thinking Small

Paul Krugman is typical of the “ivory tower” privileged class, sitting in the isolation of the Washington bubble and crowing about tokenism as if it was real accomplishment. In New York Times column today he crows about how Obama’s first term has been a “big deal” for health care, inequality and financial reform.

For health care, of course, he refers to the infamous “health care reform” legislation, which wasn’t about health care at all but actually was about health insurance. Which he admits by saying that, “Progressives have been trying to get some form of universal health insurance since the days of Harry Truman,” and adding that, “they’ve finally succeeded.”

In almost the same breath he goes on to admit that this, “wasn’t the health reform many were looking for.” He admits, further, that even as health insurance reform it lacked a bit, since, “we’ve constructed a Rube Goldberg device of regulations and subsidies that will cost more than single-payer and have many more cracks for people to fall through.” That’s his way of admitting that it is far from universal, since it leaves tens of millions of people unable to buy health insurance and without access to health care.

He’s really straining at the leash, here, to define that as a “big deal.”

For inequality, he’s reaching even farther to create a “big deal” out of thin air. He admits that, “sad to say, the Big Deal falls very far short of the New Deal,” which is one of the world’s great understatements. That’s like saying that a kitchen match falls short of a nuclear bomb; they barely belong in the same class of incendiary devices.

He says that the “Big Deal’s” inequality reform is a process of “equalizing policies at the margin,” which sounds to me like the opposite of a “big deal.” He goes on to describe how the rich will see their after-tax income fall 6-9%, which is a gross exaggeration, while saying nothing about incomes for those who are not rich. He admits this “will reverse only a fraction of the huge upward redistribution” but claims that “it’s not trivial.”

That something merely "is not trivial" does not make it a "big deal."

And, given that the rich make something like 95% of today's income and that he is talking about past “huge upward redistribution,” I have trouble seeing any validity in his claim that it is not trivial. But what do I know, I don’t teach economics at Princeton. I do have a beard, and it’s got more gray in it than Paul Krugman’s does.

As to financial reform, he admits that “the Dodd-Frank reform bill is often disparaged as toothless,” and the reason for that is that the Dodd-Frank reform bill actually is toothless, so we don’t need much lengthy discussion on that. He doesn’t actually refute that other than by saying that it pissed off the Republican supporters, but it doesn’t really take much to piss off Republican supporters, so that’s not much of an argument. I’m pretty sure that if he had a better argument he’d use it, so…

In straining to glorify his hero and the accomplishments of today’s liberal party, all Paul Krugman manages to do is illustrate the modern mastery of thinking small.

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