Professor Landsburg calls Krugman out for his dishonest (to put it nicely) presentation of the issue of deficit spending. Here is Krugman:
In America, many self-described deficit hawks are hypocrites, pure and simple. They’re eager to slash benefits for those in need but their concerns about red ink vanish when it comes to tax breaks for the wealthy.
Here is Professor Landsburg:
So unemployment benefits are costly and tax cuts are not. Which doesn’t mean that all unemployment benefits are bad or that all tax cuts are good, but it’s plenty adequate to absolve the hypocrisy charge…
He was being way too nice. Krugman’s “analysis” reads like one of those small “cheat sheet cards” they hand out at a Progressive fundraiser or political event and he is just chanting #4 on the list of “arguments to make against serious people.” But what he should have said more forcefully is that Krugman is slaying an even Strawier man than Landsburg points out. You see, Landsburg’s argument is that Krugman misleads his readers into thinking tax cuts are costly while spending is not. But in my view, Krugman is even worse than that. You see, people like me are not deficit hawks – they are spending hawks. I’d gladly take a 1 trillion annual budget deficit if the way we got there was $1 trillion of government spending every year, and no tax collections at all.
Take this Krugman quote to illustrate my point:
Now and Later, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Spend now, while the economy remains depressed; save later, once it has recovered. How hard is that to understand?
It’s that when the economy is not depressed, the spending never does cease – in fact, the spending during good times is arguably why it is so hard to trim fat today, and why the states and localities find themselves in such an awful condition. Someone please find me a time when Krugman has written something to the effect of, “times are good, and now it is a good time to reduce government spending.” It will never happen. Spending cuts have and will always be demonized as starving the beast, favoring the rich, threatening the fragile recovery and threatening to diminish the investments in the new technologies and education that is necessary for America to complete in the 21st century.
All of this “pragmatic” blathering is just that – it is an ugly and very conspicuous cover to justify a Chavezian role for our government. What is so hard to understand about that?