Lest anyone think that Krugman actually tries to make an economic argument from his New York Times perch, well, think again. Here is someone supposedly of intellectual stature trying to claim that if governments only spend enough money, that the spending somehow will permanently revitalize the economy. In other words, we spend ourselves rich.
When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States two years ago, Krugman was among those shouting the "hosannas" and throwing palm branches at the feet of the Messiah. (Of course, Obama did not ride into Washington on the back of a donkey colt, but rather in a gas-guzzler limo.)
Today, however, the hosannas have stopped, at least on Krugman's page, and while he is not yet in the mob shouting, "Crucify him!" nonetheless, I can see that the Messiah already has lost favor and most likely Krugman will be looking elsewhere -- perhaps to Hillary Clinton. In today's column, Krugman essentially rejects Obama because he thinks that the president is not doing enough to spend ourselves into recovery.
This is couched in the language of the federal deficit of course, and Krugman's view that the government under Obama is not confiscating enough income from everyone else:
After the Democratic “shellacking” in the midterm elections, everyone wondered how President Obama would respond. Would he show what he was made of? Would he stand firm for the values he believes in, even in the face of political adversity?Now, given that millions of Americans have lost their jobs or taken pay cuts, the fact that federal employees will not be receiving pay raises for a couple of years is pretty mild stuff, and Krugman's over-the-top reaction tells us more about his priorities and agenda than it does about anything Obama has done. He goes on:
On Monday, we got the answer: he announced a pay freeze for federal workers. This was an announcement that had it all. It was transparently cynical; it was trivial in scale, but misguided in direction; and by making the announcement, Mr. Obama effectively conceded the policy argument to the very people who are seeking — successfully, it seems — to destroy him.
So I guess we are, in fact, seeing what Mr. Obama is made of.
The truth is that America’s long-run deficit problem has nothing at all to do with overpaid federal workers. For one thing, those workers aren’t overpaid. Federal salaries are, on average, somewhat less than those of private-sector workers with equivalent qualifications. And, anyway, employee pay is only a small fraction of federal expenses; even cutting the payroll in half would reduce total spending less than 3 percent.Of course, it is political theater, as though anything a president does these days is anything but. However, Krugman goes to his own political theater in his insistence that we pretty much can cure all of our economic ills if the tax rate for families making $250K or more a year goes from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, and we steeply raise capital gains taxes and inheritance taxes.
So freezing federal pay is cynical deficit-reduction theater. It’s a (literally) cheap trick that only sounds impressive to people who don’t know anything about budget realities. The actual savings, about $5 billion over two years, are chump change given the scale of the deficit.
I have no idea as to the tax revenue that would be "lost" if the current tax rates are made permanent (although "permanent" in federal budget language is rather a fluid concept), but I do think that the political theater that Krugman is making is rather telling. You see, Paul Krugman really does want us to believe that we don't need capital investment (other than "massive public works"), and that our economy can prosper just as long as the government spends and spends and spends.
For that matter, I wonder why Krugman does not advocate a 100 percent tax on all of our income, and just let the government spend money, given that the "multiplier" would be at its highest level with such a scenario. Given that governments are not "income constrained," we can end this recession immediately.
Krugman's "no tax cuts for the rich" rhetoric largely is symbolic, as his real beef with Obama is that the government has not confiscated enough of our wealth. As he has written before, if it were up to him, he would let ALL tax rate cuts expire and then have the government go on a spending spree.
So, to follow Krugman's chain of logic, Obama is now out-of-favor because he is not spending and taxing enough. Maybe Hillary Clinton will be the Chosen One. Or maybe Krugman himself.