Yes, Krugman is bewailing the loss of the long-planned rail tunnel under the Hudson River between New Jersey and NYC, a project that promises to have billions of dollars of cost overruns and would burden the state with even more debt. From what I know, I believe Christie did the right thing, and the angst on the editorial pages of the NY Times that has accompanied Christie's decision definitely tells me the guy is correct.
In defending this boondoggle, which has been "planned" for two decades and still lacks the requisite funding, Krugman resorts to the kinds of cheap tricks that should be beneath a Nobel Prize-winning economist. (OK, I'm not really sure that a Keynesian also can be an economist, but nonetheless Krugman did win the Nobel a couple of years ago.)
For example, in a blog post yesterday, Krugman trots out this notion that the economics of public transit is something quite mysterious and that when one factors in all of the "externalities" and implicit costs that accompany people driving into Manhattan, then the mass transit facilities there more than pay for themselves.
(It is interesting that Krugman actually resorts to trying to make an argument by using "opportunity cost," since part of his current economic theme is that economic downturns at best modify and at worst do away with the Law of Scarcity. So, opportunity cost is fine when Krugman thinks it helps make his argument, but when Austrians try to point out the issues of opportunity cost in the analysis of the business cycle, Krugman claims that they are crackpots.)
Furthermore, Krugman does not want to address the cost issue because labor union practices in New York and New Jersey are behind the astronomical cost numbers for mass transit. However, at this point, Krugman then can switch back to his Keynesian mode and claim that all these high costs are just great, because THEY MEAN MORE SPENDING! He writes:
So this was a terrible, shortsighted move from New Jersey’s point of view. But that’s not the whole cost. Canceling the tunnel was also a blow to national hopes of recovery, part of a pattern of penny-pinching that has played a large role in our continuing economic stagnation.I have serious doubts that this tunnel, with its costs of $11-15 billion, would "revive" the economy of that area and also provide for long term growth. First, other policies that Krugman has been endorsing are going to sap growth in the future and second, if there is any growth, much if not most of the financial gain will go to paying off the debt incurred to building those projects.
When people ask why the Obama stimulus didn’t accomplish more, one good response is to ask, what stimulus? Leaving aside the cost of financial rescues and safety-net programs like unemployment insurance, federal spending has risen only modestly — and this rise has been largely offset by cutbacks at the state and local level. Many of these cuts were forced by Congress, which has refused to approve adequate aid to the states. But as Mr. Christie is demonstrating, local politicians are also doing their part.
And the ideology that has led Mr. Christie to undermine his state’s future is, of course, the same ideology that has led almost all Republicans and some Democrats to stand in the way of any meaningful action to revive the nation’s economy. Worse yet, next month’s election seems likely to reward Republicans for their obstructionism.
So here’s how you should think about the decision to kill the tunnel: It’s a terrible thing in itself, but, beyond that, it’s a perfect symbol of how America has lost its way. By refusing to pay for essential investment, politicians are both perpetuating unemployment and sacrificing long-run growth.
No, what we have is yet another Krugman shot at someone who actually wants to be fiscally responsible. However, being that Krugman is trying to claim that the current regime in power is being "stingy" with its spending, I doubt the man really is capable of comprehending an economic argument.