Okay, if Paul Krugman is going to keep on writing the same column twice a week every week forever, then I am going to keeping on objecting to it forever, though not, I promise, twice every week.
A couple of bullet points from his latest:
- In response to the priorities of Senator John Kyl, Krugman writes: “So $30 billion in aid to the unemployed is unaffordable, but 20 times that much in tax cuts for the rich doesn’t count.” Oh, for goodness’s sake. $30 billion in aid to the unemployed might or might not be good policy and 20 times that much in tax cuts might or might not be good policy; that’s beside the point here. The point is that these are quite entirely separate issues and one’s position on the first need not dictate one’s position on the second. Aid to the unemployed is costly. Tax cuts are not. Didn’t I just say this?
- And Krugman goes on: “On paper, solving America’s long-run fiscal problems is eminently doable: stronger cost control for Medicare plus a moderate rise in taxes would get us most of the way there.” In the words of a certain Nobel laureate, this passage makes me want to stick a pencil in my eye. It’s like saying “Getting my family budget under control is eminently doable: fewer caramel macchiatos plus more trips to the ATM would get us most of the way there”. Yes, cutting spending will help. No, moving money around won’t.
Like it or not, the government can always raise taxes and therefore always has a claim on your wealth. You are the government’s ATM. Making a withdrawal today (by raising your taxes) means there will be less available to withdraw tomorrow. Raising taxes does not make the government richer. Didn’t I say this already?
- Yes, I know, a bunch of silly Republicans (along with a bunch of silly Democrats) have gone around saying the deficit is all that matters, which implies that a tax increase can offset a spending increase. Yes, silly people are silly. But the existence of silly people is not enough to justify additional spending. For that, you’ve got to, you know, attempt to justify the additional spending.
Sometimes a caramel macchiato is worth the cost and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes an unemployment benefit is worth the cost and sometimes it’s not. We have useful ways of thinking about these things. Some people say: “You know, that macchiato is expensive but it’s worth it.” Others say: “I don’t think that’s a very wise expenditure right now.” Paul Krugman says: “AHA! So a caramel macchiato is unaffordable, but you still haven’t visited the ATM!” And I say: How’s that again?
Stay tuned for more Godel, more Darwin, and a little less Krugman.