It turns out that last week’s tag-team smear of a young Heritage Foundation economist, executed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and his lackey Paul Krugman of the New York Times, was even worse than we knew.
As you’ll recall, Salim Furth of the Heritage Foundation testified before the Senate Budget Committee, accurately presenting data on economic policy changes in various countries for the years 2007-2012. Then Senator Whitehouse, cheered on by Paul Krugman, spent eight minutes excoriating Furth for inventing those numbers — the sort of accusation which, if it were taken seriously, would surely destroy Furth’s career. (As well it ought to, if it had contained a grain of truth.)
And what was Senator Whitehouse’s evidence for Furth’s “meretriciousness”, as he put it? Well, it was the fact that Whitehouse had gone to Furth’s source, looked for the numbers, and found them to be entirely different.
What Senator Whitehouse didn’t tell you was that he was “refuting” Furth’s accurate report of the historical record with projected numbers, which is to say pie-in-the-sky promises by politicians about what they’re going to do in the year 2016. It was, as I said last week, as if I’d announced plans to lose 30 pounds and then promptly gained 10. When Furth accurately reports my recent weight gain, Whitehouse calls him a liar because a 10 pound gain is not a 30 pound loss.
Paul Krugman, who must know better, cheered on this mendacity when he wrote:
a Heritage Foundation economist has been accused of presenting false, deliberately misleading data and analysis to the Senate Budget Committee.
What’s so shocking? Not the false, misleading data and analysis — that’s SOP at Heritage. … What’s shocking is that they got called on it, in real time.
Now it turns out that Senator Whitehouse’s numbers were even farther off base. Not only was were the numbers invented to begin with; he took those numbers for various years and added them up, even though they were already cumulative. It’s as if I’d announced plans to lose 30 pounds in 2013 and another 20 in 2014 — a total of 50 over two years. What Senator Whitehouse did was the equivalent of adding the initial 30 to the total of 50, and then announcing that my projected weight loss is 80 pounds. And then calling Furth a 90-pound liar for accurately reporting my 10 pound weight gain.
Now as Furth himself points out, Whitehouse’s travesty of addition might well have been an act of gross incompetence, as opposed to an additional layer of mendacity. But — though Furth is too polite to point this out — Paul Krugman doesn’t have that excuse. If you’ve actually been following this stuff (as I’m sure Paul Krugman has), the numbers were just too implausible.
In other words, there’s no way Paul Krugman actually swallowed Senator Whitehouse’s claim that Ireland has “announced fiscal consolidations” of 95% of GDP. (The correct projected number is 18%.) If he was paying any attention at all, he has to have known these numbers were garbage. Yet he endorsed them.
The only alternative theory is that he endorsed these numbers without paying any attention at all, just because they were integral to a partisan hack’s attempt to destroy the career of a good young scholar, and Krugman just couldn’t wait to check before using his megaphone to magnify the smear.