I have come to expect wooly-headed partisanship from Paul Krugman instead of economic analysis, and that is one reason I started this blog. The other reason was that I want to have another source that attacks and exposes the Keynesian fallacies for what they are: dangerous nonsense.
Nonetheless, even Krugman has managed to go where few economists have gone before: into total partisan fantasyland. I figured he would be crowing in his Monday column, and I am correct. Krugman’s utterings in the aftermath of the passage of the healthcare nationalization legislation are not worthy of anyone who has a doctorate from one of the most prestigious economics programs in the world. He has given talking points that I would expect to read on the Daily Kos or in one of the ubiquitous emails I receive from the Democratic Party.
Krugman has entitled his column, "Fear Strikes Out," but in reality, Krugman has struck out, demonstrating not only his outright partisanship, but also his dishonesty. Let me begin.
He begins the column with a long quote from President Obama. Now, I generally don’t like to begin any of my articles with quotes from politicians unless I am taking the scalpel to their words, as we can figure that however lofty the rhetoric might be, there is an iron fist inside a velvet glove, and this is no exception.
However, after quoting Obama, he then turns to Newt Gingrich:
And on the other side, here’s what Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House — a man celebrated by many in his party as an intellectual leader — had to say: If Democrats pass health reform, “They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation.
Notice that "passing civil rights legislation" was not what Gingrich said. No, Krugman inserted those words to imply that anyone who opposed the legislation was a racist.
Now, I don’t like to defend the loathsome Gingrich, and I don’t forget that for all of his lofty "limited government" rhetoric, he was just another politician grabbing what he could from the till. However, one has to understand the tactics that Krugman is using, and they are absolutely despicable.
He points out that someone from the Tea Party protests called John Lewis the "N-word," which is "proof" that opposition to the medical care legislation was undergirded with racism. While I also condemn the use of such language, nonetheless, Krugman uses the incident in a way that promotes a non sequitur. Do you have difficulties with the legislation? Do you think that it is going to pile on trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities on our present and future generations at a time when the government of this country is essentially bankrupt?
Well, if you believe that, or even think it, then you also are a racist. Lest you think I am exaggerating, read on:
Instead, I want you to consider the contrast: on one side, the closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism. Think about what it means to condemn health reform by comparing it to the Civil Rights Act. Who in modern America would say that L.B.J. did the wrong thing by pushing for racial equality? (Actually, we know who: the people at the Tea Party protest who hurled racial epithets at Democratic members of Congress on the eve of the vote.)
However, what if you are someone who says that the Law of Scarcity was not repealed, no matter what Krugman says? Well, you, too, are a cynical racist. Why? The Congressional Budget Office has declared this legislation to be fiscally sound, and we know that the CBO always gets it right, and that it is "nonpartisan" and never affected by politics:
Yes, a few conservative policy intellectuals, after making a show of thinking hard about the issues, claimed to be disturbed by reform’s fiscal implications (but were strangely unmoved by the clean bill of fiscal health from the Congressional Budget Office) or to want stronger action on costs (even though this reform does more to tackle health care costs than any previous legislation). For the most part, however, opponents of reform didn’t even pretend to engage with the reality either of the existing health care system or of the moderate, centrist plan — very close in outline to the reform Mitt Romney introduced in Massachusetts — that Democrats were proposing.
Ah! We have proof! Mitt Romney pushed what Krugman claims is a similar plan in Massachusetts, and Romney is a Republican, so any opposition to the government’s newest edict can only be made on the basis of racism! Don’t you see the logic? It is all there!
Krugman, however, is not done. He finishes with this benediction:
This is, of course, a political victory for President Obama, and a triumph for Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker. But it is also a victory for America’s soul. In the end, a vicious, unprincipled fear offensive failed to block reform. This time, fear struck out.
Yes, if you think that legislation that essentially nationalizes medical care, promises price controls, has new provisions that will criminalize actions that once fell into the category of voluntary, peaceful trade, and imposes coercive measures along with empowering the Internal Revenue Service, then you are on the side of the demons. You are a vicious, lying racist who wants everyone to get sick and not have healthcare.
Am I exaggerating? Read the column and see for yourself. You cannot both take a hard look at the fiscal provisions of this legislation and ask questions about it, for if you do, then you are a vicious racist.
There is more in this column and I will take a future look at some other points he makes, but for now, I leave readers with this sobering thought: The 2008 Nobel laureate in economics has declared that questioning this legislation through the lens of the simple laws of economics is an act of racism.
William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit his blog.