For all those who claim I exaggerate, I will let Krugman's own words speak for him:
For we have our own currency — and almost all of our debt, both private and public, is denominated in dollars. So our government, unlike the Greek government, literally can’t run out of money. After all, it can print the stuff. So there’s almost no risk that America will default on its debt — I’d say no risk at all if it weren’t for the possibility that Republicans would once again try to hold the nation hostage over the debt ceiling.This hardly is out of place with Krugman's other writings on the subject. Like all cranks, Krugman looks only at one side of inflation, the "deleveraging" side in which inflation in essence repudiates debt. He absolutely is correct when he says that since U.S. Government debt is denominated in dollars, should the government make its payments via newly-created money (ostensibly done by the Fed directly purchasing U.S. Government short-term debt from the Department of the Treasury), it will have fulfilled its paper obligations.
But if the U.S. government prints money to pay its bills, won’t that lead to inflation? No, not if the economy is still depressed.
Now, it’s true that investors might start to expect higher inflation some years down the road. They might also push down the value of the dollar. Both of these things, however, would actually help rather than hurt the U.S. economy right now: expected inflation would discourage corporations and families from sitting on cash, while a weaker dollar would make our exports more competitive.
And he is right that such actions would create future inflationary expectations, but that also is good because that would force more investment or spending, and we could export more. You see? There is no downside to this scheme! Print, print, print, and print some more!
Yet, there IS a downside, and it is huge. First, let us deal with the "little guy," the one who Krugman claims will benefit most from inflation. Krugman assumes that this person, who ostensibly has little or nothing in savings, will not be hurt as prices rise. Yet, it is precisely the "little guy" who does not get the new money first, who does not receive the benefit of getting pay raises that allow him to keep up with the rising prices.
Instead, this person is faced with the prospect of becoming poorer in real terms. Certainly the Obama administration has pursued a policy of inflation, and I wonder how many readers have seen their incomes go up proportionally to their expenses for food, fuel, and other necessities. I doubt seriously that most readers can say that has happened, but that many more will say that prices for goods and services have gone up faster than their incomes.
Second, Krugman really wants us to believe that an inflationary climate will improve investment conditions. I'm not sure how that would happen, given that when there is noticeable inflation, people will put their money into things like gold, silver, and other items that tend to hold their value, something we saw during the late 1970s when we had double-digit inflation.
The other thing that would happen would be people getting out of the dollar, which also was the case during the late 1970s. No doubt, if such things happened, Krugman would call for capital controls, a prohibition on buying gold, and a general investment police state, as though such coercion and prosperity go hand-in-hand.
There is one other inconsistency to which I would like to call the reader's attention: If Krugman really does believe that printing money is a permanent solution to our budget problems, then why raise tax rates? For that matter, why have taxes at all, since we can print our way to prosperity?
I doubt he has a good answer for these questions other than to say that he doesn't want hyperinflation, just enough inflation to repudiate debts and cover the government's budget shortfalls. After all, Warren Buffett on the same editorial page has made the incredible claim that tax rates have absolutely no effect at all on investment. (I challenge readers to find anywhere in Buffett's article where he says tax rates matter.)
Those of us who were adults during the last wave of double-digit inflation remember that most people did not see inflation as a solution, but rather an outright crisis. Certainly, Jimmy Carter did not run for re-election on a platform of even more inflation. I guess he should have had Paul Krugman as his chief economic adviser.