Paul Krugman, apparently relying on the stupidity of his readers, opens with this quote:
“At some point, Washington has to deal with its spending problem,” Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said Wednesday. “I’ve watched them kick this can down the road for 22 years since I’ve been here. I’ve had enough of it. It’s time to act.”
Then Krugman comments as follows:
22 years, huh? Indeed, Boehner was elected in 1990, and entered the House at the beginning of 1991. So what kind of can-kicking was going on during his first, say, decade in office? Here’s the picture:
Hmm — it sort of looks as if the US was sharply reducing its debt during the presidency of a guy named, I don’t know, Bill something or other.
See what he did there? Boehner says something about spending; Krugman responds with an irrelevant chart depicting debt, and hopes you won’t notice he’s completely changed the subject.
And on he drones:
OK, joking aside, this is important. Republicans have invented a history in which it has been fiscal irresponsibility all along — and far too many centrists have bought into the premise. The reality is that we had low debt and no fiscal problem before Reagan; then an unprecedented surge in peacetime, non-depression deficits under Reagan/Bush; then a major improvement under Clinton; then a squandering of the Clinton surplus via tax cuts and unfunded wars of choice under Bush…
The problem here is that debt is not a measure of fiscal (ir)responsibility. If you buy a kayak you can’t afford, you’re equally irresponsible whether you take cash from your pocket, or make a withdrawal from your savings account, or put it on your credit card.
Fiscal irresponsibility is measured by ill-advised spending. And unfortunately, we can’t just pull up a graph showing the timepath of ill-advised spending, because we’re bound to have legitimate differences of opinion about which spending is ill-advised.
Krugman finesses that problem by a) talking about something other than spending and b) pretending this is relevant to Boehner’s remarks, which unambiguously are about spending. Presumably he’s learned over the years that his readers are too dumb to notice the bait-and-switch.