We have always been at war with Michael Kinsley’s smugness


Ah, poor Michael. His ability to blow smoke out his ass is nowhere near as amusing as it used to be, and people who used to tolerate him are no longer as patient as they used to be:

The best part of this sort of language about government spending — or, more accurately, about the government issuing bonds — is that it makes being working- and middle-class sound so much fun. Did you know it’s been a party, these last few decades? And Paul Krugman, irresponsibly, wants everyone to continue partying. What is wrong with that? It’s here that Kinsley reveals himself to be a member of the Scarborough school, the sorts of longtime Important Beltway Men who are simply pretty sure that austerity is superior to all alternatives because the government’s been making it too easy and comfortable for the rabble over the last generation or so. And as we all know after a party you have to starve yourself to death to atone.

This is the line everyone’s been quoting (and with good reason):

I don’t think suffering is good, but I do believe that we have to pay a price for past sins, and the longer we put it off, the higher the price will be.

I dunno, maybe an editor should’ve looked at that? It basically says “I don’t believe suffering is good but I do believe we deserve to suffer.” The editor should’ve also added a note explaining that Michael Kinsley turned into Joe Scarborough on his way back to his home planet.

The “we need our medicine” line always — literally always — actually means you need your medicine.

It is hugely embarrassing on a number of levels that this is the last line of Kinsley’s column: “They at least are talking about the spinach, while the Krugmanites are only talking about dessert.” First of all, spinach is actually pretty good if it’s prepared well. Maybe instead of “spinach” the metaphor for austerity should be “poison.” “We need to eat our poison to make up for how much cake we had before” is the austerian argument, more accurately put.

Second of all, the “we need our medicine” line always — literally always — actually means you need your medicine. One reason austerity has been so popular (and Krugman says this as well) is that its effects don’t harm the rich. The economy sucking sometimes means rich people might be getting less richer than they would otherwise, but the last few years have also seen a surging stock market and record corporate profits. Even Matt Yglesias, Slate’s foremost foe of workplace safety standards, is on the side of the proles on this one.

Michael Kinsley’s attraction to punitive economic policy is basically a tic. It’s a holdover from the days when it looked like liberalism Wasn’t Working and New Liberals with a bunch of crazy counter-intuitive conservative ideas were thought to be much more entertaining. It’s the tic that allowed him to succeed in the conservatism-ascendant world of Reagan-era Big Ideas magazines, but at this point it is a weird anachronism, like bow ties or post-9/11 straight manly men homophiliac fixations on Donald Rumsfeld.

Meanwhile, it’s been fun, over the last decade or two, to watch Paul Krugman be radicalized by his opponents. This is a longtime globalization advocate who was hired, by the Times, presumably to write a column based mainly on economics, along the lines of his old Slate columns where he’d explain Japan with ticket scalping analogies and so on. Instead they got this angry fulminating liberal truth-crusader.

H/t Price Benowitz LLP, Maryland.

3 thoughts on “We have always been at war with Michael Kinsley’s smugness

  1. We only got the post war prosperity that we had because five million men came home with guns in their hands, and the powers decided that they had better do something for them or there would be hell to pay.

    Since 1980 they have decided that it had all gone far enough, and it was time to start taking it all back. As candidate Obama said, by the 60’s and 70’s things had gotten out of hand and Reagan was the transformative President to get it all back under control.

    I don’t see any changes coming until the cities are burning again.

  2. Ugh. I saw a clip of Lloyd Blankfein on RT this morning spouting some horseshit about entitlements needing to be cut AS IF that guy is ENTITLED TO SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THE BENEFITS THE PEOPLE HAVE EARNED. I threw up in my mouth.

  3. The 60s were not the first time people pushed back against the bankers and their apologists. We actually have a long history of it in this country. The bankers hope we forget that, or never learn it.

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