Second, academic economists ought to be able to differentiate between political "victories" by a politician and the economic outcomes. Unfortunately, Paul Krugman in this column manages to violate to principles and once again identifies himself as a shill, a lowly political operative.
It is no secret that Krugman worships Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, holding it to an almost mystical standard. That FDR's New Deal attempted to organize the entire U.S. economy into a series of cartels, destroyed agricultural products despite widespread hunger (the destruction financed by a tax on agricultural products), criminalized the kosher killing of chickens, and unleashed petty bureaucrats to burden entrepreneurs with useless rules is utterly irrelevant to Krugman. In fact, he wants us to believe that the New Deal -- which actually kept unemployment higher than it would have been had FDR just stuck to engaging in his adulterous liaisons -- in essence created an economic miracle: "...the New Deal had a revolutionary impact, empowering workers and creating a middle-class society that lasted for 40 years...."
In other words, Krugman wants us to believe that no U.S. "middle class" existed before the New Deal and that by empowering the state to move well beyond previous boundaries, FDR accomplished what no one ever before was able to do. Now, I have no idea how the New Deal could have done that, except that Krugman thinks that empowering labor unions and vastly expanding what truly is an unproductive bureaucracy managed to increase overall wealth in the U.S. economy.
This defies the imagination. The New Deal, from its inception, openly attempted to throw sand in the wheels of production and, thus, result in less wealth in the form of goods and services. Destruction of crops destroyed wealth; creating and maintaining cartels destroyed wealth. This is fundamental, yet Krugman turns the whole thing upside down by claiming that the use of violence (which enabled unions to gain higher wages for themselves -- at the expense of non-union workers) and the expansion of the bureaucracies, which are funded by taxpayers who are forced to give up some of their own wealth, somehow made all of us wealthier.
Krugman's gives himself away by telling readers that making some people poorer somehow is good for the economy. He writes:
That said, health reform will provide substantial aid to the bottom half of the income distribution, paid for largely through new taxes targeted on the top 1 percent, and the “fiscal cliff” deal further raises taxes on the affluent. Over all, 1-percenters will see their after-tax income fall around 6 percent; for the top tenth of a percent, the hit rises to around 9 percent. This will reverse only a fraction of the huge upward redistribution that has taken place since 1980, but it’s not trivial.There is a huge problem here; Krugman explains that the new tax laws will make a portion of our population less well-off, but he does not adequately explain how that benefits the rest of us. Yes, ObamaCare allegedly will make it easier for some people to have access to health insurance, but ObamaCare itself, with all of its new rules, regulations, and criminal penalties, will result in less medical care overall being made available. Even Krugman admits that the health care law created a "Rube Goldberg device of regulations and subsidies...."
Is it my imagination, or is Barack Obama a magician? One would think that by adding rules and procedures (which, according to the Law of Opportunity Cost will increase overall costs), the government is going to force the medical care "supply curve" to the left (to use economists' jargon). How this is a "victory" for the economy, I have no idea.
In Krugman's view, making one group of people less-well-off is the same thing as making everyone else better off, yet he offers no mechanism other than pure transfer payments. However, transfer payments only distribute existing wealth and they create no new wealth. This is the classic "Zero-Sum Economy," and if that is Krugman's view of things, then how does he explain the fact that overall standards of living for everyone are substantially higher than they were during the New Deal. For that matter, they are substantially higher for everyone than they were during Ronald Reagan's presidency.
I would ask anyone to explain how Paul Krugman's theory of political economy actually demonstrates any causal relationship between New Deal and "Big Deal" policies and an overall rising standard of living. Krugman never has explained how an economy might grow in the first place, except to claim that inflation somehow creates economic miracles. (But even there, he does not explain a causal relationship between inflation and real economic growth.)
Furthermore, his explanation of "capital theory" really is nothing more than a spending theory. The new Apple iPhone, he surmised, might boost the economy because people will buy new ones. Come again? Does the iPhone do away with the Law of Opportunity Cost?
In the end, what Krugman is reduced to shilling for Barack Obama because he is a Democrat who has vastly expanded the reach of the State. And according to Krugman, an expanded and more powerful State through coercion makes us all richer. I'm not sure how that happens, but maybe Krugman will explain everything in a future column.